People v. Stevens

Decision Date20 July 1999
Docket NumberDocket No. 110866, Calendar No. 4.
Citation460 Mich. 626,597 N.W.2d 53
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Eugene Charles STEVENS, Defendant-Appellee.
CourtMichigan Supreme Court

Jennifer M. Granholm, Attorney General, Thomas L. Casey, Solicitor General, John D. O'Hair, Prosecuting Attorney, and Timothy A. Baughman, Chief, Research, Training and Appeals, Detroit, for the people.

Robert F. Mitchell, Detroit, for the defendant-appellant.

Opinion

BRICKLEY, J.

We granted leave in this case to determine whether the Fourth Amendment requires the exclusion of evidence obtained under a valid search warrant, and during a search of proper scope, because of a violation of the "knock and announce" principles.1 If the Fourth Amendment does not require exclusion, then we must also determine whether evidence obtained after a violation of our "knock and announce" statute must be excluded. Given that the evidence would have been discovered despite any police misconduct and that excluding the evidence because of the misconduct puts the prosecution in a worse position than it would have been without the police misconduct, we hold that the inevitable discovery exception to the exclusionary rule applies in the present case. Additionally, we fail to discern any legislative intent to have the exclusionary rule apply to violations of our "knock and announce" statute. Accordingly, the trial court erred in granting defendant's motion to suppress.

Facts

At approximately 6:00 p.m. on August 10, 1994, the police purchased narcotics from the defendant's female companion. The police then followed the woman to defendant's home where she had told a confidential informant she kept the "stash." After the police determined that the defendant was on probation for a controlled substance conviction, they decided to raid the house. The police obtained a search warrant and arrived back at the house at 12:32 a.m. on August 11, 1994, at which time there were no lights on in the house and the police did not observe any signs of activity or hear any footsteps. The officers knocked on the door repeatedly and announced in a loud voice that they were police officers. After an eleven-second wait, the officers began a forced entry that took an additional fifteen to eighteen seconds. The defendant was found sleeping in his bedroom, which was approximately twenty-five feet from the front door.

Corporal Alex Ramirez of the Dearborn Police Department participated in the raid. He testified that it was the general practice of the Dearborn Police to wait ten or eleven seconds before beginning a forced entry. Additionally, Corporal Ramirez testified that, when executing a search warrant, the Dearborn Police Department made no distinction between daytime and nighttime executions relative to the time the officers wait between the knock and announcement and forcing entry into the dwelling. Ramirez also testified that the fact that defendant was on probation for a controlled substance conviction made no difference in how long Ramirez waited before forcing entry into the house. The trial court found that this entry violated the knock-and-announce statute, M.C.L. § 780.656; M.S.A. § 28.1259(6). Additionally, the trial court found that the police officers acted unreasonably in executing the search warrant and that the defendant's constitutional guarantee under the Fourth Amendment had been violated. Therefore, the subsequent search and seizure of evidence were constitutionally invalid, and the exclusionary rule should be applied. The trial court thus granted the defendant's motion to suppress.

The prosecutor appealed, and the Court of Appeals vacated the trial court's order and remanded the case for reconsideration in light of Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U.S. 927, 115 S.Ct. 1914, 131 L.Ed.2d 976 (1995). The Court of Appeals also gave the prosecution the opportunity to "establish that, based on particularized facts known to the police at the time of executing the warrant, the threat of physical harm to law enforcement personnel or the existence of reason to believe that evidence would likely be destroyed may establish the reasonableness of an otherwise insufficiently announced entry."

After being denied rehearing by the Court of Appeals, the defendant appealed to this Court, arguing that the remand was inappropriate because the prosecution had conceded that the present record was adequate and complete on the question of the sufficiency of the announced entry. This Court agreed with the defendant, vacated the Court of Appeals order, and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's granting of the motion to suppress. The prosecutor now appeals to this Court.

Standard of Review

This Court reviews a trial court's ruling regarding a motion to suppress for clear error. People v. Burrell, 417 Mich. 439, 448, 339 N.W.2d 403 (1983). However, in the present case, we review the application of a constitutional standard to uncontested facts. "Application of constitutional standards by the trial court is not entitled to the same deference as factual findings." People v. Nelson, 443 Mich. 626, 631, n. 7, 505 N.W.2d 266 (1993). The application of the exclusionary rule to a violation of the knock-and-announce component of the Fourth Amendment is a question of law. "The standard of review is de novo with regard to questions of law." People v. Sierb, 456 Mich. 519, 522, 581 N.W.2d 219 (1998).

Additionally, we consider whether the evidence obtained after a violation of our "knock and announce" statute must be excluded. Statutory interpretation is a question of law that this Court reviews de novo. People v. Denio, 454 Mich. 691, 698, 564 N.W.2d 13 (1997).

Analysis
I

The prosecutor brings this appeal, arguing that, while the police officers may have violated the knock-and-announce statute, M.C.L. § 780.656; M.S.A. § 28.1259(6),2 the Court of Appeals erred in finding that the exclusionary rule applies where the police make a search of proper scope under a valid warrant.

In deciding to grant the defendant's motion to suppress, the trial court relied upon People v. Polidori, 190 Mich.App. 673, 476 N.W.2d 482 (1991). That Court found:

Although there is no Michigan case that directly deals with the sanction that should follow a violation of the knock-and-announce statute, we agree with a number of other jurisdictions that the requirement that officers identify themselves and state their authority and purpose before entering a private residence has its roots in the Fourth Amendment.
Consequently, when the method of entry violates the knock-and-announce statute, the exclusionary rule may come into play if the Fourth Amendment standard of reasonableness is also offended. Because the primary purpose of the constitutional guarantee is to prevent unreasonable invasions, if a police officer has a reasonable cause to enter a dwelling to make an arrest, his entry and search are not unreasonable. If the police officers have a basis to conclude that evidence will be destroyed or lives will be endangered by delay, strict compliance with the statute may be excused. Similarly, if events indicate that compliance with the statutory requirements would be a useless gesture, the requirement that the police officers wait for admission may also be excused.

* * *

There is no claim that a search carried out in compliance with the statute would have resulted in the destruction of the evidence, increased the danger to the police officers, or been a useless gesture. Under these circumstances, we can only conclude that the police officers acted unreasonably when they executed the search warrant. Because there was no evidence introduced at the suppression hearing to justify the simultaneous forced entry of defendant's home, we can find no reason to excuse the police officers from complying with the requirements of our knock-and-announce statute. [ Id. at 676-678, 476 N.W.2d 482 (citations omitted).]

In affirming the trial court in the present case, the Court of Appeals relied on People v. Asher, 203 Mich.App. 621, 624, 513 N.W.2d 144 (1994), in holding that "if the method of entry violates the knock-and-announce statute, the exclusionary rule must apply." People v. Stevens, unpublished opinion per curiam, issued October 28, 1997 (Docket No. 199175), slip op at 6. In Asher, the police, in executing a search warrant, violated the knock-and-announce statute by entering the residence within five seconds of knocking and announcing. The Asher Court stated, "We would not conclude that a timing error in the execution of a valid search warrant offends the Fourth Amendment reasonableness requirement." Id. at 624, 513 N.W.2d 144.3 However, the Court felt compelled by Administrative Order No.1990-6 to follow Polidori and suppress the evidence.

II

We first consider whether police officers' violation of the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights requires exclusion of the evidence. The introduction into evidence of materials seized and observations made during an unlawful search is prohibited by the exclusionary rule. Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, 34 S.Ct. 341, 58 L.Ed. 652 (1914), overruled on other grounds in Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206, 80 S.Ct. 1437, 4 L.Ed.2d 1669 (1960); Silverman v. United States, 365 U.S. 505, 81 S.Ct. 679, 5 L.Ed.2d 734 (1961). Additionally, the exclusionary rule prohibits the introduction into evidence of materials and testimony that are the products or indirect results of an illegal search, the so-called "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine. Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 83 S.Ct. 407, 9 L.Ed.2d 441 (1963).

The exclusionary rule, which provides for the suppression of illegally obtained evidence, originates in three decisions of the United States Supreme Court around the turn of the century. Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, 34 S.Ct. 341, 58 L.Ed. 652 (1914...

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