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Court Finds that Officer's Trespass did not Violate Constitution


Case: People v. Towne

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )

Judges: Per Curiam – Servitto, Gadola, and O’Brien


Search & seizure; Motion to suppress evidence on Fourth Amendment grounds; People v. Frohriep; Per se unreasonableness of warrantless searches; People v. Davis; Probable cause;People v. Brzezinski; The plain view exception to the warrant requirement; People v. Galloway; People v. Kazmierczak; People v. Champion; Legality of an officer’s position based on whether he or she invaded the residence’s curtilage; United States v. Dunn; People v. Powell; The exclusionary rule; People v. Reese; Use of a knock & talk; People v. Frederick; Florida v. Jardines; Whether an officer was trespassing on Fourth Amendment-protected property when he smelled the marijuana


On remand from the Michigan Supreme Court for reconsideration in light of Frederick, the court concluded that case did not change its original decision and again held that the trial court properly denied defendant’s motion to suppress evidence on Fourth Amendment grounds. He pleaded guilty to manufacturing marijuana. The issue was whether his challenges to the denial of his motions to suppress and dismiss on the basis the evidence was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment were meritorious under Frederick. The court held that they were not. It previously held that the actions of two officers in walking up to the back of his home during a knock and talk did not lead to the discovery of any evidence and thus, the exclusionary rule did not apply. This determination involved the causal relationship between their “actions and the discovery of evidence, which was not at issue in” Frederick, which did “not discuss the discovery of evidence through ‘sufficiently distinguishable’ means.” Thus, it had no effect on this part of the court’s prior opinion, and the court again found that the officers’ “actions did not require suppression of the evidence.” Defendant also challenged whether another officer’s (H) actions, i.e., observing his house from the tree line, violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The legality of H’s actions depended on whether he was in the curtilage of the home. “Frederick did not address the meaning or scope of curtilage,” and thus, the court found that it had no effect on its previous ruling that he was not. For the same reasons as provided in the prior opinion, it again concluded that H was not within the curtilage. However, it was clear that H “was trespassing on defendant’s property when he smelled the marijuana. As explained in Frederick, information-gathering combined with a trespass on Fourth-Amendment-protected property constitutes a search triggering Fourth Amendment protections.” But the court concluded that H “was not trespassing on Fourth-Amendment-protected property,” and thus, held that defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were not violated. It found that H “was in the open fields outside of the curtilage” at the time, and the plain view exception applied. Affirmed.

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