57 P.3d 1111 (Utah App. 2002), 20010479, Brigham City v. Stuart

Docket Nº:20010479-CA.
Citation:57 P.3d 1111, 2002 UT App 317
Opinion Judge:THORNE, Judge.
Party Name:BRIGHAM CITY, a municipal corporation, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Charles W. STUART, Shayne R. Taylor, and Sandra A. Taylor, Defendants and Appellees.
Attorney:Leonard J. Carson, Mann, Hadfield & Thorne, Brigham City, for Appellant. Rod Gilmore, Layton, for Appellees.
Case Date:October 03, 2002
Court:Court of Appeals of Utah
 
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Page 1111

57 P.3d 1111 (Utah App. 2002)

2002 UT App 317

BRIGHAM CITY, a municipal corporation, Plaintiff and Appellant,

v.

Charles W. STUART, Shayne R. Taylor, and Sandra A. Taylor, Defendants and Appellees.

No. 20010479-CA.

Court of Appeals of Utah

October 3, 2002.

Page 1112

Leonard J. Carson, Mann, Hadfield & Thorne, Brigham City, for Appellant.

Rod Gilmore, Layton, for Appellees.

Before Judges BENCH, GREENWOOD, and THORNE.

OPINION

THORNE, Judge.

¶ 1 Brigham City appeals from an interlocutory order granting Defendants' joint Motion to Suppress Evidence collected after Brigham City police officers entered a private residence without first obtaining a warrant. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

¶ 2 On July 23, 2000, at approximately 3:00 a.m., four Brigham City police officers responded to a loud party complaint. After arriving at the house, the officers proceeded to the back of the house to investigate the noise. From the driveway, through a slat fence, the officers saw two young men, who appeared to be under age, consuming alcohol. The officers entered the backyard through a gate, thereby obtaining a clear view into the back of the house.

¶ 3 Looking into the house through a screen door and two windows, the officers observed four adults restraining one juvenile. The juvenile, who was struggling to break free, managed to swing his fist and strike one of the adults in the face. Two of the officers then opened the screen door and stepped into the house. Only after entering the house did one of the officers shout to identify and call attention to himself. One by one, each person in the kitchen became aware of and acknowledged the officers' presence, then become angry that the officers had entered the house without permission.

¶ 4 The officers subsequently arrested each of the adults and charged them with: contributing to the delinquency of a minor, disorderly conduct, and intoxication. Defendants filed a joint Motion to Suppress Evidence. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court granted Defendants' motion. Brigham City submitted a proposed order to the trial court that contained the trial court's findings of fact. That order was signed as proposed and it is from this order that Brigham City now appeals.

ISSUES AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶ 5 We review the factual findings underlying a trial court's decision to grant or deny a motion to suppress evidence for clear error, and the legal conclusions for correctness, "with a measure of discretion given to the trial judge's application of the legal standard to the facts." State v. Moreno, 910 P.2d 1245, 1247 (Utah Ct.App.1996).

¶ 6 In the present case, neither party disputes the written factual findings that support the trial court's legal conclusion that no exigent circumstances justified the officers' warrantless entry into the private residence. We accordingly review the trial court's application of Fourth Amendment principles to the undisputed facts of this case. See id.

ANALYSIS

¶ 7 Brigham City argues the trial court erred in determining that there were no exigent circumstances to justify the warrantless entry into a private residence. "A warrantless search of a residence is constitutionally permissible where probable cause and exigent circumstances are proven."

Page 1113

State v. Yoder, 935 P.2d 534, 540 (Utah Ct.App.1997). When a private residence is involved, the State's burden in proving the existence of probable cause and exigent circumstances is "particularly heavy." Id. (citations and quotations omitted). This elevated burden is a result of the "heightened expectation of privacy" that citizens enjoy in their homes. State v. Beavers, 859 P.2d 9, 13 (Utah Ct.App.1993).

¶ 8 Exigent circumstances exist where a reasonable person in the officers' position would " 'believe that entry was necessary to prevent physical harm to the officers or other persons, [to prevent] the destruction of relevant evidence, [to prevent] the escape of the suspect,' " or to prevent the improper frustration of legitimate law enforcement efforts. Beavers, 859 P.2d at 18 (citation and ellipsis omitted). In addition, the need for immediate entry must be apparent to police at the time of entry, and so strong as to outweigh the important...

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