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Michigan Supreme Court Determines Search was Illegal


Case: People v. Frederick

Court: Michigan Supreme Court ( Opinion )

Judges: McCormack, Markman, Zahra, Viviano, Bernstein, Larsen, and Wilder


Search & seizure; Whether the “knock and talk” procedures conducted in the defendants’ cases were consistent with the Fourth Amendment as articulated in Florida v. Jardines; U.S. Const. amend. IV; Kentucky v. King; Katz v. United States; United States v. Jones; Illinois v. Caballes; United States v. Knotts; Principle that unexpected visitors are customarily expected to knock on the front door of a home only during normal waking hours; United States v. Lundin (9th Cir.); Whether defendants’ consent to search was valid; Schneckloth v. Bustamonte; Principle that evidence acquired after an illegal search must be suppressed unless the government shows that its acquisition of the evidence resulted from “an intervening independent act of free will” sufficient “to purge the primary taint of the unlawful invasion”; Wong Sun v. United States; Principle that when an inculpatory statement follows an unlawful arrest, a finding of voluntariness does not obviate the need to make a separate Fourth Amendment determination as to whether the statement was sufficiently an act of free will to purge the primary taint; Brown v. Illinois; Florida v. Royer


The court held that because the knock and talks in this case were “outside the scope of the implied license, the officers trespassed on Fourth-Amendment-protected property.” Further, “because the officers trespassed while seeking information, they performed illegal searches.” Finally, “because of these illegal searches, the defendants’ consent—even if voluntary—[wa]s nonetheless invalid unless it was sufficiently attenuated from the illegality.” Defendants, both corrections officers, were suspected of possessing marijuana butter. The investigating police officers decided to make early-morning visits to their homes, knock, and request to search. Defendants agreed to the searches and the officers recovered the marijuana butter. They were then charged with various controlled substances offenses. Both unsuccessfully moved to suppress the evidence. The Court of Appeals denied their appeal, but the court remanded. On remand, the Court of Appeals held that the police officers’ use of the knock-and-talk procedure did not violate defendants’ Fourth Amendment rights. The court disagreed, finding that the police conduct exceeded the scope of the implied license to knock and talk because the officers approached the homes during predawn hours and thus, trespassed. “The approaches of the defendants’ homes were not valid knock and talks, but rather searches under the Fourth Amendment. And because the police did not have warrants or any other exception to the warrant requirement, we conclude that the approaches violated the Fourth Amendment.” In addition, the court found that “defendants’ consent—even if voluntary—is invalid unless it is sufficiently attenuated from the warrantless search.” It noted that the U.S. Supreme Court “has identified three factors to be considered in determining whether consent is sufficiently attenuated: (1) the temporal proximity of the illegal act and the alleged consent, (2) the presence of intervening circumstances, and (3) the purpose and flagrancy of the official misconduct.” Because the trial court ruled “that there was no Fourth Amendment violation, it did not consider whether the subsequent consent was attenuated from the illegality.” Reversed and remanded.

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