D.Minn.: Def was a suspect in a stabbing, and police entered his property without a warrant claiming exigency; there was no exigency

Police came to defendant’s house because he was alleged to have stabbed somebody. They entered the curtilage without a warrant to look for evidence, and they found a bent bloody knife out in the rain. The warrantless entry was not shown to be with exigent circumstances because there was no need to worry about destruction of evidence from the beginning of the foray onto the property and there was no safety concern. The destruction of evidence rationale for exigency is more compelling in drug cases, but this isn’t. There was no readily foreseeable evidence to be destroyed before a warrant could be obtained. The assault didn’t happen at defendant’s house, the officers knew it, and that’s a big difference on what they’d expect to find. United States v. Neadeau, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1975 (D. Minn. Jan. 5, 2018):

Here, the Court concludes that the Government has not demonstrated that an objectively reasonable officer would have had sufficient grounds to believe that an immediate entry into the curtilage was necessary to ensure the safety of law enforcement or any other individual. In this case, the risk to officer safety was no more than that inherent in investigating crime. See Naujoks, 637 N.W.2d at 109 (concluding that there was no safety-based exigency because the “situation did not involve any objective indication of fear of violence or jeopardy more than any other police encounter with persons suspected of criminal activity would involve”). As soon as Officer Wicker arrived at the Neadeau home, he looked around the front area before immediately proceeding to the curtilage. His testimony offered no indication that, before his warrantless entry, he observed movement inside the home or suspicious behavior necessitating a warrantless entry to ensure anyone’s safety or to render emergency aid. Moreover, as already described, Officer Wicker had no indication when he arrived at the Neadeau home that Neadeau was inside, much less that there were weapons in the home or in the curtilage. See Hill, 430 F.3d at 941-42 (holding that warrantless entry into home was justified where, “in addition to the violent crime for which [defendant] was being arrested,” officers saw another man observe them, run back into defendant’s home, and defendant’s wife then denied this man’s presence inside house); United States v. Vance, 53 F.3d 220, 222 (8th Cir. 1995) (safety exigency justified warrantless entry where “officers had been informed that there were other individuals and weapons in the house”).

Furthermore, this is not a case where, for example, officers were responding to reports of domestic violence and an individual covered in blood told them that children were inside the home, justifying a warrantless entry into an open garage to speak with an occupant. United States v. Scott, 876 U.S. 1140, 1143-44 (8th Cir. 2017). Nor is this a case where, after arresting a fleeing suspect, officers noticed blood on his hand and shirt and, combined with loud sounds of a commotion inside a hotel room, the officers subsequently made a warrantless entry to ensure no one inside was in immediate need of aid. Leveringston, 397 F.3d at 1117. And finally, this is not a case where, responding to an assault that reportedly had occurred at defendant’s home, officers saw a drop of blood near the front door and followed the trail of blood into the curtilage of the home to find a blood-stained sweatshirt. Chipps, 410 F.3d at 442. The present record is devoid of comparable factors that would have led a reasonable officer to legitimately be concerned for his safety or that of others, or to reasonably believe that someone was in need of immediate assistance. See also United States v. Kuenstler, 325 F.3d at 1015, 1021 (8th Cir. 2003) (legitimate safety concerns existed where one defendant resisted arrest outside of home, woman ran out of house screaming threats, officers became aware that another person was watching them from inside of doorway of house where there might be a drug lab); United States v. Collins, 321 F.3d 691, 695 (8th Cir. 2003) (“immediate aid” exigency justified officer leaning into vehicle to confirm that men inside were not injured where officer was responding to area where shots were reportedly fired).

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