IN: Even if prolonged knocking can be unreasonable in a knock-and-talk, here it was justified by a chemical smell at the house

Even if prolonged knocking during a knock-and-talk, recognized as potentially unreasonable in United States v. Jerez, 108 F.3d 684 (7th Cir. 1997), was unreasonable, here it was reasonable because it was based on the officers encountering a chemical on the property. Warren v. State, 2017 Ind. App. LEXIS 141 (March 30, 2017):

P21 Warren directs us to U.S. v. Jerez, 108 F.3d 684 (7th Cir. 1997) as an “instructive damning case”. Appellant’s Brief at 40. In that case, deputies conducted a knock and talk at a quiet motel room late at night. When the occupants did not answer, the deputies continued to knock for several minutes and announce verbally that they were police and wanted the door opened. One of the deputies then began knocking on the window and shining a light through it. The Seventh Circuit concluded:

Once the officers had been refused admittance, their continued efforts to rouse the occupants out of bed certainly prevented them from ignoring the continued requests and from maintaining the privacy and solitude of their dwelling. The deputies’ persistence, in the face of the refusal to admit, transformed what began as an attempt to engage in a consensual encounter into an investigatory stop.

Id. at 691-692.

P22 The Jerez court went on to explain that if an occupant refuses to answer the door and police take additional steps to obtain an answer, then the Fourth Amendment imposes some minimal level of objective justification to validate the resulting seizure. See id. at 692. The Seventh Circuit indicated that because the deputies’ actions, when considered in their totality, amounted to an investigatory stop, the deputies needed reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot to go beyond the traditional knock and talk. Id. at 693. Because the Seventh Circuit found reasonable suspicion lacking, it held that the defendant’s consent to search obtained almost immediately following the illegal seizure was invalid. Id. at 693-95.

P23 Unlike in Jerez, Deputy Busing and Trooper Lockridge had reasonable suspicion to broaden their investigation once they smelled the chemical odor, known to be associated with the manufacturing of methamphetamine, and observed precursors on the burn pile. At a minimum, given the volatile nature of such an environment, they were permitted to intensify their knocking and announcing to determine whether there were occupants at risk inside the home. Cf. Hardister, 849 N.E.2d at 570-71 (although officers conducting a knock and talk following an anonymous tip could not make a warrantless entry into the home when they observed the occupants fleeing toward the back of the residence in a high crime area, the officers had reasonable suspicion to pursue the fleeing individuals by entering the rear curtilage of the residence to make a Terry stop).

P24 Viewed in their totality, the officers’ actions complied with the Fourth Amendment standard of reasonableness and constituted a reasonable response to the suspicion created by the odor regarding a possible danger inside the home. Thus, Warren’s subsequent consent to search was not rendered invalid by the officers’ preceding actions, and the extensive evidence found inside the home was properly admitted at trial.

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