NJ: Entry into garage to make a DUI arrest violated 4A and state const.

Defendant was convicted of DUI. Acting on a tip of erratic driving by a particular LPN, the officer went into her garage and entered it to investigate and then make the arrest. There were no exigent circumstances like a medical emergency, and the entry into the garage violated the Fourth Amendment and the state constitution. State v. Mellody, 2024 N.J. Super. LEXIS 55 (July 5, 2024):

In this appeal we consider the circumstances in which a police officer may enter a suspect’s residence in connection with a drunk or careless driving investigation. Under the Fourth Amendment and its analogue, Article I, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution, homes are accorded heightened protections. While police have the authority to perform various “community caretaking” functions—such as determining whether a suspected drunk driver needs medical attention—they may not make a warrantless entry into a suspect’s home, including the garage, to execute an investigative detention without consent or exigent circumstances.

. . .

After carefully reviewing the record in light of the governing legal principles, we conclude the officer had reasonable and articulable suspicion to initiate a DWI stop based on a 9-1-1 call reporting defendant’s erratic driving. However, we also conclude the officer unlawfully entered defendant’s garage to detain her. Viewed under an objective standard, the record shows the officer did not render emergency aid justifying the warrantless entry under the exigent circumstances exception. Rather, the officer conducted what might be characterized as a routine investigation of the suspected DWI and careless driving offenses, approaching the vehicle in the garage as if it were stopped on the side of a public road, and administering standard field sobriety tests without ever inquiring whether defendant needed medical attention.

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