Sapen v. State

Decision Date20 July 2007
Docket NumberNo. 20A03-0609-CR-424.,20A03-0609-CR-424.
PartiesCharles E. SAPEN, Appellant-Defendant, v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

William J. Cohen, Elizabeth A. Bellin, Cohen Law Offices, Elkhart, IN, Attorneys for Appellant.

Steve Carter, Attorney General of Indiana, George P. Sherman, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellee.

OPINION

BAILEY, Judge.

Case Summary

Appellant-Defendant Charles E. Sapen ("Sapen") appeals his convictions for Resisting Law Enforcement, as a Class D felony,1 and Operating While Intoxicated, as a Class A misdemeanor.2 We reverse the convictions and remand for retrial on the Operating While Intoxicated count.3

Issues

Sapen raises six issues for review. We address the issue that we find dispositive: whether the trial court erroneously admitted evidence obtained in violation of Sapen's Fourth Amendment rights.

Because we reverse the convictions, it is necessary to address an additional issue: whether there is sufficient evidence to permit Sapen's re-trial for Resisting Law Enforcement and Operating While Intoxicated.

Facts and Procedural History

During the early morning hours of October 24, 2004, Elkhart County Sheriff Captain Sean Holmes ("Captain Holmes") was patrolling for impaired drivers on county roads. At the intersection of county roads 109 and 102, Captain Holmes observed an SUV go beyond a stop sign and stop in the intersection. Captain Holmes turned his vehicle around, activated his overhead lights and followed the SUV.

Approximately forty-five seconds later, Captain Holmes pulled into a residence driveway behind the SUV, driven by Sapen. Sapen had parked his SUV in his garage, but had not closed the garage door. Sapen got out of his vehicle, and walked back to Captain Holmes. Captain Holmes asked if Sapen had seen his lights and Sapen replied in the negative. Captain Holmes detected a smell of alcohol and observed that Sapen had "red, glassy" eyes. (Tr. 59.) In Captain Holmes' opinion, Sapen "concentrated on walking." (Tr. 59.) The observations "indicated to [Captain Holmes] that further investigation was needed." (Tr. 59.) Sapen gave Captain Holmes his driver's license and stated that he needed to get his vehicle registration from his vehicle. Captain Holmes then "let him go back in." (Tr. 59.)

Captain Holmes walked back to his vehicle to notify dispatch of his location and soon noticed that Sapen was gone. Captain Holmes called out to Sapen, then entered Sapen's garage, and opened the door to the garage office. Sapen was inside and refused Captain Holmes' entreaties to come outside and perform field sobriety tests. Sapen repeatedly indicated that he was in his own home. He also reached into desk drawers, stating that he needed to contact his attorney. Inside the garage office, Captain Holmes detected the smell of alcohol and observed that Sapen had a "little sway" in his movements. (Tr. 61.)

Captain Holmes grabbed Sapen's hand, and Sapen pushed back and pulled away. Captain Holmes threatened to use pepper spray to compel Sapen out of the garage office. Repeatedly stating that "he was home," Sapen continued to rummage in a desk drawer. Captain Holmes administered two bursts of pepper spray. Captain Holmes then insisted that Sapen "come out in fresh air," but Sapen replied he was hurt. (Tr. 67, Videotape.)

Captain Holmes got one handcuff on Sapen, who pulled away. Captain Holmes then "used the handcuff to bring Sapen to the ground." (Tr. 67.) During that process, Captain Holmes sustained a knuckle injury and a cut on his arm that caused "discomfort and swelling."4 (Tr. 67.) Sapen was transported to the hospital for treatment of injuries from inhalation of pepper spray, but refused a chemical blood alcohol test at the hospital.

Sapen was charged with Operating While Intoxicated, as a Class A misdemeanor, Ind.Code § 9-30-5-2, and Resisting Law Enforcement, as a Class D felony, Ind.Code § 35-44-3-3(a). On November 5, 2005, Sapen filed a motion to suppress all evidence garnered as a result of Captain Holmes' entry into his home. After a hearing, the motion was denied. The trial court granted the State's motion in limine prohibiting Sapen from challenging at trial the lawfulness of Captain Holmes' residential entry. Sapen was brought to trial on May 8, 2006. Over Sapen's objection, the trial court instructed the jury that Captain Holmes' residential entry was lawful under the United States Constitution and the Indiana Constitution. On May 9, 2006, Sapen was convicted as charged.

On July 12, 2006, the trial court sentenced Sapen as follows. Upon the Class D felony conviction, Sapen was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment, with all but 90 days suspended to probation.5 The ninety days was to be served on a home incarceration program with alcohol monitoring. Sapen received a concurrent one-year sentence for the Class A misdemeanor, all suspended to probation. Sapen's driver's license was suspended for ninety days, and he was also required to pay fines and make a written apology to Captain Holmes. He now appeals.

Discussion and Decision
I. Legality of Warrantless Entry

Before, during and after trial, Sapen has sought to challenge the lawfulness of Captain Holmes' entry into his home. The trial court refused to exclude evidence obtained as a result of Captain Holmes' warrantless entry, refused Sapen's proffered instructions on reasonable resistance, and issued a pre-trial order precluding Sapen from otherwise challenging the lawfulness of Captain Holmes' conduct. Additionally, over Sapen's objection, the jury was instructed as follows: "The officer's entrance into the defendant's home was lawful under the United States and the Indiana Constitutions." (App.78.) Sapen contends that he was essentially deprived of the opportunity to present his defense that he responded lawfully to a home entry that violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We agree.6

A trial court has broad discretion in ruling on the admissibility of evidence, and we will disturb its rulings only where it is shown that the court abused that discretion. Griffith v. State, 788 N.E.2d 835, 839 (Ind.2003). We view the circumstances in their totality to determine if there was substantial evidence of probative value to support the trial court's ruling. Id. at 839-40. However, when presented with a question of law, we review the ruling under a de novo standard. Id. at 839.

Both the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution protect "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures[.]" U.S. Const. Amend. IV; Ind. Const., art. I § 11. "It is a basic principle of Fourth Amendment law that searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable." Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 586, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 63 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980). "[T]he physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed." Id. at 585, 100 S.Ct. 1371.

However, the presumption of unreasonableness that attaches to a warrantless entry can be overcome by a showing of exigent circumstances, which traditionally have included: 1) a suspect is fleeing or likely to take flight in order to avoid arrest; 2) incriminating evidence is in jeopardy of being destroyed or removed unless an immediate arrest is made; and 3) hot pursuit or movable vehicles. Snellgrove v. State, 569 N.E.2d 337, 340 (Ind. 1991). Further, the Indiana Supreme Court has recognized an "emergency circumstances" exception for instances "where a violent crime has occurred and entry by police can be justified as a means to prevent further injury or to aid those who have been injured." Id. (citing Tata v. State, 486 N.E.2d 1025, 1028 (Ind.1986)). The warrantless arrest of a person in his or her home requires both probable cause and "exigent circumstances ... that make it impracticable to obtain a warrant first." Adkisson v. State, 728 N.E.2d 175, 177 (Ind.Ct.App.2000) (citing Payton, 445 U.S. at 576, 100 S.Ct. 1371).

In the present case, the State has strenuously contended that evidence destruction by alcohol absorption in the bloodstream is an exigent circumstance independently sufficient to support the warrantless entry and urges this Court to adopt the reasoning of a California Supreme Court decision. See People v. Thompson, 38 Cal.4th 811, 43 Cal.Rptr.3d 750, 135 P.3d 3 (Cal. 2006), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 446, 166 L.Ed.2d 317 (2006) (finding the dissipation of blood-alcohol evidence to constitute an exigent circumstance under the facts of that case). Nevertheless, a close reading of that case indicates that the Court did not intend to adopt a bright line rule that all DUI suspects may be pursued into a residence to guard against evidence destruction. Rather, the Court explained:

The officers had good reason to believe that defendant, who had attempted to flee out the back door upon learning of their presence, would escape again or otherwise act to conceal his intoxication if given the opportunity. . . . In holding that exigent circumstances justified the warrantless entry here, we need not decide—and do not hold—that the police may enter a home without a warrant to effect an arrest of a DUI suspect in every case. We hold merely that the police conduct here, taking into account all of the circumstances, was reasonable[.] . . . In short, the state's intrusion into the home was the minimum necessary to effect the arrest and extended only to areas already exposed to public view. Under these circumstances, it was reasonable for the police to enter the home without a warrant in order to arrest defendant and thereby prevent the imminent destruction of evidence of his crime.

135 P.3d at 13-14 (emphasis in original) (internal citation omitted).

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13 cases
  • Lafave v. State Of Ind.
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • December 28, 2010
    ...held that the need to preserve such evidence alonewithout more (e.g., hot pursuit) is not necessarily sufficient. Sapen v. State, 869 N.E.2d 1273, 1277 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007), trans. denied. Thus, the balancing required in evaluating the justification for warrantless entry into a home must ta......
  • Paul v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • July 20, 2012
    ...requires both probable cause and ‘exigent circumstances ... that make it impracticable to obtain a warrant first.’ ” Sapen v. State, 869 N.E.2d 1273, 1277 (Ind.Ct.App.2007) (quoting Adkisson v. State, 728 N.E.2d 175, 177 (Ind.Ct.App.2000)), trans. denied. Exigent circumstances have been fou......
  • Martin v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • November 27, 2019
    ...and entry by police can be justified as a means to prevent further injury or to aid those who have been injured. Sapen v. State , 869 N.E.2d 1273, 1277 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007) (quoting Snellgrove , 569 N.E.2d at 340 (citing Tata v. State , 486 N.E.2d 1025, 1028 (Ind. 1986) )), trans. denied . ......
  • Harper v. State
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • February 26, 2014
    ...make it impracticable to obtain a warrant first.’ ' ” 4Paul v. State, 971 N.E.2d 172, 176 (Ind.Ct.App.2012) (quoting Sapen v. State, 869 N.E.2d 1273, 1277 (Ind.Ct.App.2007), trans. denied (quoting Adkisson v. State, 728 N.E.2d 175, 177 (Ind.Ct.App.2000))). Although Officer Gillespie's purpo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4 books & journal articles
  • Searches of the home
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Suppressing Criminal Evidence Fourth amendment searches and seizures
    • April 1, 2022
    ...(Ind. Ct. App. 2003). The hot pursuit doctrine also can require police to order a suspect to stop and not enter a home. Sapen v. State, 869 N.E.2d 1273 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007). Evidentiary searches under the hot pursuit doctrine are limited to searches for weapons and preventing the imminent d......
  • Searches of the home
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Suppressing Criminal Evidence - 2020 Contents
    • July 31, 2020
    ...(Ind. Ct. App. 2003). The hot pursuit doctrine also can require police to order a suspect to stop and not enter a home. Sapen v. State, 869 N.E.2d 1273 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007). Evidentiary searches under the hot pursuit doctrine are limited to searches for weapons and preventing the imminent d......
  • Searches of the Home
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Suppressing Criminal Evidence - 2016 Contents
    • August 4, 2016
    ...(Ind. Ct. App. 2003). The hot pursuit doctrine also can require police to order a suspect to stop and not enter a home. Sapen v. State, 869 N.E.2d 1273 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007). §4:116 SEARCHES OF THE HOME 4-44 Evidentiary searches under the hot pursuit doctrine are limited to searches for weap......
  • Searches of the Home
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Archive Suppressing Criminal Evidence - 2017 Contents
    • August 4, 2017
    ...(Ind. Ct. App. 2003). The hot pursuit doctrine also can require police to order a suspect to stop and not enter a home. Sapen v. State, 869 N.E.2d 1273 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007). Evidentiary searches under the hot pursuit doctrine are limited to searches for weapons and preventing the imminent d......

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