497 N.W.2d 910 (Mich. 1993), 92172, People v. Davis

Docket NºDocket No. 92172.
Citation497 N.W.2d 910, 442 Mich. 1
Opinion JudgeOPINION
Party NamePEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee v. Harriet DAVIS, Defendant-Appellant
Attorney[442 Mich. 2] John D. O'Hair, Pros. Atty., Timothy A. Baughman, Chief of Research, Detroit, for plaintiff-appellee. Bellanca, Beattie and De Lisle, P.C. by Frank D. Eaman, Detroit, for defendant-appellant.
Case DateMarch 02, 1993
CourtSupreme Court of Michigan

Page 910

497 N.W.2d 910 (Mich. 1993)

442 Mich. 1

PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee

v.

Harriet DAVIS, Defendant-Appellant

Docket No. 92172.

Calendar No. 3.

Supreme Court of Michigan.

March 2, 1993

Argued Oct. 13, 1992.

Page 911

[442 Mich. 2] John D. O'Hair, Pros. Atty., Timothy A. Baughman, Chief of Research, Detroit, for plaintiff-appellee.

Bellanca, Beattie and De Lisle, P.C. by Frank D. Eaman, Detroit, for defendant-appellant.

OPINION

BRICKLEY, Justice.

We have been asked to determine [442 Mich. 3] whether the Court of Appeals erroneously reversed a trial court suppression of evidence seized in a search without a warrant of a motel room following a telephone report of gunfire at that location. We respond in the affirmative and accordingly reverse the Court of Appeals and reinstate the trial court's decision.

I

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The following facts were elicited during an evidentiary hearing in Detroit Recorder's Court on November 2, 1989. On August 4, 1989, Detroit Police Officers Lynn Brown and Royce Hill were on uniformed patrol in Scout Car 7-5. At 5:35 p.m., the two officers heard a radio dispatch directing Scout Car 7-7 to go to the Belmar Motel, at 3250 East Jefferson in downtown Detroit. The exact words of the broadcast were "7-7, 3250 East Jefferson, Belmar Motel, Room 33 or 34, ah, desk clerk says shots fired." Although this dispatch did not direct them to go to the scene, Officers Brown and Hill did so because they were nearby.

When the officers arrived at the Belmar, they parked their car in front of the motel, adjacent to the office. They observed no unusual activity in or around the motel. They did not speak to the desk clerk or the manager, but instead went directly to the rooms. The officers approached room 33 first, testifying that they did so because it was the first one they came to. As they approached the door to room 33, Officer Brown had drawn his service revolver, and Officer Hill was carrying a shotgun in one hand and a flashlight in the other. The officers knocked on the door, announcing either "police," or "police, open up."

In response to this knocking, defendant-appellant[442 Mich. 4] Davis peeked out from between the curtains and looked at the officers, who were standing there with guns drawn. She left the window and the curtains fell back into place. The officers continued to knock and announce their presence, but defendant did not respond. As time passed, the police became more suspicious that defendant was trying to hide something, and continued their attempts to get a response.

The two officers gave different versions of what happened immediately before they entered room 33. Officer Brown testified that while they were trying to get someone to answer the door, a man, whom Officer Brown described as the manager, approached and asked if the officers wanted a key to the room. Officer Brown replied in the affirmative. However, defendant opened the door before the manager returned with the keys. Officer Hill, on the other hand, testified that the officers did not speak to the manager before entering the room. There was no evidence that either of the officers asked this person if he had called 911 and reported that he heard gunshots.

According to the officers, it was three to five minutes before the defendant opened the door. When she finally did, the officers stepped just inside the doorway. After the officers entered the room, they explained to her that they were investigating a report that gunshots had been fired. As they stood there, Officer Brown saw what he thought was a handgun wedged between the mattresses on the bed. He walked over to the bed to retrieve the object and found that it was indeed a gun. In addition, Officer Brown testified that, from his vantage point inside the door, he

Page 912

had observed some objects on the "dresser table." Specifically, he saw a plastic bag with a green substance in it, and a number of pharmaceutical capsules, some [442 Mich. 5] filled with a white substance, and others empty. Once Officer Brown stepped into the room and retrieved the gun, Officer Hill walked through the room and went into the bathroom, to check the bathroom area to see if any injured persons, suspects, or more weapons were on the premises. While in the bathroom, Officer Hill discovered measuring spoons in the toilet bowl and narcotics in plastic bags on the bathroom sink.

The officers were joined at the scene by other officers, including a narcotics team, approximately twenty minutes to one-half hour after searching the room. According to Officers Hill and Brown, the unit originally dispatched to the scene, Scout car 7-7, never arrived. In total, the police seized six bottles of narcotics, a blue and white plastic bag containing two blue envelopes marked "Most Wanted," one ziplock bag containing rock cocaine, one aluminum foil container of white powdery substance, a white pill bottle containing forty-nine pink capsules that contained a white powdery substance, a red memo book, one box of packaging envelopes, an ink pad with a stamp marked "Most Wanted," three razor blades, two loose pink capsules, three ziplock-type plastic bags and $3,370 in cash. The officers testified that all of these items were found on the top of the dresser table.

At the evidentiary hearing, the trial judge asked Officer Hill what he would have done if, after the officers entered the room, defendant had told them to leave without making any investigation. Officer Hill responded that he would not have allowed her to close the door and go about her business, "[b]ecause due to the run, I didn't know if anyone was in there shot, could have been somebody in there hurt." The trial judge asked, "She wasn't gonna go anywhere until at least you satisfied yourself that either the shots had not been fired from the room [442 Mich. 6] or that nobody was inside that room wounded?" Officer Hill responded, "Correct."

The police dispatch that originally brought the officers to the Belmar was based on a call to 911. A transcript and tape of that call was admitted into evidence at the hearing. The caller claimed to be the manager of the "Belmont" Hotel on Jefferson, and reported hearing "shots coming out of 33 or 34...." In addition to giving the wrong name of the motel, the caller was unable to give the address or the cross street. In explanation, the caller claimed to have just started working at the Belmar.

The police found no indication that shots were actually fired in either room 33 or 34. No other person, injured or otherwise, was found in room 33. Furthermore, it does not appear that the police ever searched room 34. Officer Brown testified that he never entered room 34, and that he did not know if Officer Hill or any of the police officers who came to the scene ever did. Officer Hill did not testify with regard to this point. It appears that the police quickly came to the conclusion that the report of "shots fired" was false, or that they lost interest in its significance after discovering evidence of a drug violation. In fact, after discovering the evidence, Officer Brown testified that he told defendant that she probably had been "set up," suggesting that he thought the basis of the radio dispatch was false. 1

[442 Mich. 7] Defendant was arrested and charged with four counts: (1) possession with intent to deliver 50 to 225 grams of cocaine, (2) possession with intent to deliver less than 50 grams of heroin, (3) possession of marijuana in violation of M.C.L. Sec. 333.7401(2)(a); M.S.A. Sec. 14.15(7401)(2)(a), and

Page 913

(4) possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, M.C.L. Sec. 333.7403(2)(d); M.S.A. Sec. 14.15(7403)(2)(d). She was bound over to Recorder's Court, where she filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized from her motel room. She contended that the officer's entry and seizure of the evidence violated the United States Constitution, because the officers acted without a warrant and the search and seizure did not fall under any of the exceptions to the warrant requirement.

After the evidentiary hearing, the trial court ordered that the evidence be suppressed and dismissed the case, stating:

[I]n terms of my holding, whether or not the seizure is justified depends on whether the police had a right to be where they were. I believe that under controlling precedent they did not. The radio run clearly gave the police a right to investigate. But, the level of information given to the police, and the way in which it was given, cannot justify a nonconsensual entry into private property. [Emphasis added.]

Although he granted defendant's motion, he did so reluctantly, holding that the police acted reasonably in all that they did, and stated:

[W]ere I free to create law, I would uphold the seizure ... but I don't think that there is a general exception for reasonable police activity. I think they needed a warrant, or they needed to have their activity fit within one of the recognized [442 Mich. 8] exceptions. It doesn't, under the facts of this case. And, as a result, I'm suppressing the evidence.

The people appealed this decision.

The Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in suppressing the evidence and reversed. 189 Mich.App. 468, 473 N.W.2d 748 (1991). The Court of Appeals stated that in order for a search without a warrant to be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, probable cause and a circumstance establishing an exception to the warrant requirement must exist. Id., pp. 472-473, 473 N.W.2d 748. The Court found that the search and seizure was legal because it fell under the community caretaker and plain view exceptions to the warrant requirement. Id., p. 476, 473 N.W.2d 748. It described the community caretaker exception as a...

To continue reading

Request your trial
97 practice notes
  • People v. Kent, 040918 MICA, 336245
    • United States
    • Michigan Court of Appeals of Michigan
    • April 9, 2018
    ...or that their conduct fell under one of the narrow, specific exceptions to the warrant requirement." People v Davis, 442 Mich. 1, 10; 497 N.W.2d 910 (1993). Constitutional rights, including the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, are personal and m......
  • People v. Word, 121917 MICA, 334970
    • United States
    • Michigan Court of Appeals of Michigan
    • December 19, 2017
    ...or that their conduct fell under one of the narrow, specific exceptions to the warrant requirement."People v Davis, 442 Mich. 1, 10; 497 N.W.2d 910 (1993). Further, "an occupant of an [sic] hotel or motel room is also entitled to the Fourth Amendment prote......
  • 630 N.W.2d 921 (Mich.App. 2001), 222317, People v. Beuschlein
    • United States
    • Michigan Court of Appeals of Michigan
    • May 11, 2001
    ...exceptions to the warrant requirement. People v. Borchard-Ruhland, 460 Mich. 278, 293-294, 597 N.W.2d 1 (1999); People v. Davis, 442 Mich. 1, 10, 497 N.W.2d 910 (1993); Snider, supra at 407, 608 N.W.2d 502. A Relevant to the present appeal is the "exigent circumstances" exception,......
  • 788 N.W.2d 860 (Mich.App. 2010), 289330, People v. Corr
    • United States
    • Michigan Court of Appeals of Michigan
    • January 19, 2010
    ...weather conditions. Such noninvestigatory duties have been recognized by our courts as official duties of the police. See People v. Davis, 442 Mich. 1, 20, 497 N.W.2d 910 (1993) (" The police perform a variety of functions that are separate from their duties to investigate and solve cr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
97 cases
  • People v. Kent, 040918 MICA, 336245
    • United States
    • Michigan Court of Appeals of Michigan
    • April 9, 2018
    ...or that their conduct fell under one of the narrow, specific exceptions to the warrant requirement." People v Davis, 442 Mich. 1, 10; 497 N.W.2d 910 (1993). Constitutional rights, including the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, are personal and m......
  • People v. Word, 121917 MICA, 334970
    • United States
    • Michigan Court of Appeals of Michigan
    • December 19, 2017
    ...or that their conduct fell under one of the narrow, specific exceptions to the warrant requirement."People v Davis, 442 Mich. 1, 10; 497 N.W.2d 910 (1993). Further, "an occupant of an [sic] hotel or motel room is also entitled to the Fourth Amendment prote......
  • 630 N.W.2d 921 (Mich.App. 2001), 222317, People v. Beuschlein
    • United States
    • Michigan Court of Appeals of Michigan
    • May 11, 2001
    ...exceptions to the warrant requirement. People v. Borchard-Ruhland, 460 Mich. 278, 293-294, 597 N.W.2d 1 (1999); People v. Davis, 442 Mich. 1, 10, 497 N.W.2d 910 (1993); Snider, supra at 407, 608 N.W.2d 502. A Relevant to the present appeal is the "exigent circumstances" exception,......
  • 788 N.W.2d 860 (Mich.App. 2010), 289330, People v. Corr
    • United States
    • Michigan Court of Appeals of Michigan
    • January 19, 2010
    ...weather conditions. Such noninvestigatory duties have been recognized by our courts as official duties of the police. See People v. Davis, 442 Mich. 1, 20, 497 N.W.2d 910 (1993) (" The police perform a variety of functions that are separate from their duties to investigate and solve cr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results