United States District Court, E.D. Michigan
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW I.
HONORABLE DENISE PAGE HOOD UNITED STATES DISTRICT, CHIEF
October 3, 2007, Plaintiff Jeffrey Sanders
("Sanders") filed this action against the Detroit
Police Department ("DPD"), DPD Officer Christopher
Griffin ("Griffin"), and two state judges. (Doc #1)
The Court dismissed the judges as parties and granted
Sanders' motion to add the City of Detroit as a party in
place of DPD. The Complaint alleges an unreasonable search
and seizure claim, a claim that Sanders was not provided with
a timely judicial determination of probable cause, and a
Monell claim. Summary judgment was granted in favor
of Defendants. (Doc # 74) The Sixth Circuit reversed and
remanded for further proceedings on the Fourth Amendment
claim only, instructing the Court to examine whether Officer
Griffin's warrantless entry into Sanders' apartment
was constitutional pursuant to the domestic violence
exception identified in Georgia v. Randolph, 547
U.S. 103, 118 (2006). (Doc # 100) The Sixth Circuit
specifically asked whether "Tiyani [Sanders] validly
consented to the entry, Griffin asked for such consent, or
Sanders ever objected." Id. at 504. This Court
held a bench trial on April 25 and 26, 2016. The Court heard
testimony from Sanders and DPD Officers Griffin and Jason
FINDINGS OF FACT
April 15, 2006 at approximately 8:30 a.m., Officers Griffin
and Treece responded to a 911 dispatch at 7260 Southfield
Road in Detroit after a report of an assault and battery. The
Officers were met outside by Jeffrey Sanders' wife,
Tiyani Sanders. Officer Treece testified that Tiyani Sanders
appeared frightened and distressed; she had a laceration on
her lip. Tiyani Sanders stated to the officers that,
following a verbal altercation, Jeffery Sanders hit her in
the face with a closed fist and busted her lip. He also
threatened her with a knife and stated that he would kill
her. Tiyani Sanders told Officer Treece that Jeffrey Sanders
was acting strange, as if he were on drugs. Officer Griffin
testified that he told Tiyani Sanders that the officers were
going to effectuate an arrest and asked where Jeffrey Sanders
was located. Tiyani Sanders told the officers that Jeffrey
Sanders was in the apartment. The officers asked if they
could go into the apartment, and Tiyani Sanders stated yes.
Officers Griffin requested backup, and the officers proceeded
up to the apartment.
arriving at the apartment, the officers knocked on the door.
Jeffrey Sanders testified that he heard the knock and opened
the door. He saw police officers. The officers told him that
he was the subject of a domestic violence investigation and
asked if he would discuss it. Sanders testified that he
stated, "yes, let me get something on my ass, "
referring to the fact that he was in his underwear. Sanders
took a step back into the apartment, and the officers stepped
into the apartment through the open door and arrested
Sanders. Defense Counsel specifically asked Sanders whether
Sanders stated, "No, you cannot come in" to the
officers. Sanders stated he did not. Sanders stated that
after stating, "yes, let me get something on my ass,
" the officers entered his home and arrested him.
Section 1983 claim, Sanders contends that the officers
violated his Fourth Amendment rights by entering his home
without a warrant.
U.S.C. § 1983 states that "[e]very person who,
under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or
usage, of any State ... subjects, or causes to be subjected,
any citizen of the United States ... to the deprivation of
any rights ... secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be
liable to the party injured in an action at law." 42
U.S.C. § 1983.
Fourth Amendment protects individuals against
"unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const.
Amend. IV. Warrantless searches are per se
unreasonable absent a valid exception, such as the exigent
circumstance exception. Katz v. United States, 389
U.S. 347, 357 (1967); Payton v. New York, 445 U.S.
573, 590 (1980). Exigent circumstances exist when there is a
"need to protect or preserve life or avoid serious
injury." Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385, 392
(1978). Exigent circumstances also exist if immediate and
serious consequences will certainly occur if police officers
postpone their actions in order to obtain a warrant.
Ewolski v. City of Brunswick, 287 F.3d 492, 501 (6th
Cir. 2002). The Sixth Circuit has identified situations
presenting a "risk of danger to the police or
others" as one category of exigent circumstances
justifying warrantless entries. United States v.
Rohrig, 98 F.3d 1506, 1515 (6th Cir. 1996). The relevant
inquiry is whether an objectively reasonable officer
confronted with the same circumstances could reasonably
believe that exigent circumstances existed. Mincey v.
Arizona, 437 U.S. 385, 392 (1978) (citing Dickerson
v. McClellan, 101 F.3d 1151, 1158 (6th Cir. 1996)). When
engaging in this inquiry, courts should examine the totality
of the circumstances to determine whether the warrantless
entry was justified. Thacker v. City of Columbus,
328 F.3d 244, 254 (6th Cir. 2003).
Sixth Circuit has evaluated warrantless entries in response
to domestic violence incidents under the exigent
circumstances exception. Id. And, the Supreme Court
has examined warrantless entries into dwellings regarding
domestic violence incidents. As it relates to co-tenants, the
general rule is that one tenant's consent to law
enforcement's warrantless entry does not override a
physically present co-tenant's express refusal of entry
to law enforcement unless law enforcement is entering a
dwelling to protect a resident from domestic violence.
Randolph, 547 U.S. at 118 (2006). Police may enter a
dwelling to protect a resident from violence if police have
"good reason to believe such a threat exists."
Id. at 118. Officers may also enter a dwelling to
"determine whether violence (or threat of violence) has
just occurred or is about to (or soon will) occur."
Did Officer Griffin Ask for Consent to Enter?
Griffin received permission from Tiyani Sanders to enter the
apartment. Officer Griffin testified that he received
permission from Tiyani Sanders to enter the apartment. He
explicitly asked for permission to enter the apartment that
Tiyani Sanders shared with Jeffrey Sanders. Officer Griffin
stated that he told Tiyani Sanders that he was going to
effectuate an arrest and asked her whether the officers could
go inside her apartment. Officer Griffin's question was
an explicit request for permission to enter the apartment.
Did Tiyani Sanders ...