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People v. Hammerlund

Supreme Court of Michigan

July 23, 2019

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JENNIFER MARIE HAMMERLUND, Defendant-Appellant

Page 130

         

          Chief Justice: Bridget M. McCormack. Chief Justice Pro Tem: David F. Viviano. Justices: Stephen J. Markman, Brian K. Zahra, Richard H. Bernstein, Elizabeth T. Clement, Megan K. Cavanagh.

         OPINION

Page 131

         [504 Mich. 446] BEFORE THE ENTIRE BENCH

          Megan K. Cavanagh, J.

          In this case we must decide whether defendant's constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizures was violated when a police officer entered her home to complete her arrest for a misdemeanor offense. The Court of Appeals concluded that defendant exposed herself to public arrest when she reached out her doorway to retrieve her identification and that when

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she pulled her arm back into her home the officer's entry was lawful as a " hot pursuit." We disagree. Defendant did not surrender her Fourth Amendment rights when she interacted with law enforcement at her doorway because she consistently maintained her reasonable expectation of privacy throughout the encounter, and further, the entry was not justified under the " hot pursuit" exception to the warrant requirement. The warrantless arrest was unreasonable under Payton v New York, 445 U.S. 573, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 63 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980). We reverse the Court of Appeals judgment and remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

          I. BACKGROUND

          Defendant, Jennifer Marie Hammerlund, was involved in a single-vehicle accident in the early morning hours of September 30, 2015, on a highway exit ramp in Wyoming, Michigan. According to defendant, another driver cut her off, causing her to overcorrect and lose control of her car. Her vehicle scraped a cement barrier and left a dent on a metal guardrail. Defendant suffered only minor injuries; however, the car was no [504 Mich. 447] longer drivable. She attempted to call her insurance company and then used a rideshare service to get home. She did not report the accident to police.

          Soon after, Officer Erich Staman of the Wyoming Police Department was dispatched to the scene of a reported abandoned vehicle on the shoulder of the highway off-ramp. After observing the damage to the vehicle, as well as the guardrail and cement barrier, Officer Staman requested a tow truck and conducted an inventory search. He discovered that the vehicle was registered to defendant and that it contained paperwork bearing defendant's name, so he requested that officers from the Kentwood Police Department go to defendant's home to perform a welfare check.

          In the meantime, according to defendant, she returned home, found that she was " really shaken up," and drank some alcohol. She then went into her room and went to bed. Only a few minutes later, the Kentwood officers arrived and told her roommate that they wished to speak with defendant. Defendant initially declined to leave her room; however, after her roommate spoke to the officers and reported back to defendant that the police would take her into custody and arrest the roommate for harboring a fugitive if she did not appear, defendant came to the door. After that, Officer Staman arrived at the home to " make contact" with defendant.

          Officer Staman testified that when he arrived at defendant's home, he stood on her porch while she remained inside, approximately 15 to 20 feet away from the front door. He acknowledged that it " didn't appear that [defendant] wanted to come to the door . . . ." And, when asked whether defendant " made it pretty clear that she wasn't coming out of the home," he agreed, stating, " It seemed that she wasn't going to [504 Mich. 448] come out." During their short conversation, defendant admitted to driving the car that caused the damage. When he asked defendant to produce her identification she was " reluctant" to give it to him so she passed it to him through a third party in the home. Officer Staman testified that defendant told him that she " thought [Officer Staman] might be trying to coax her out of the house."

          After verifying her information, Officer Staman offered the identification card back to defendant. He explained:

And then I had to give the I.D. back to her, so I made sure I gave it back to Ms. Hammerlund. In doing that she came to the door where I was standing

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and reached out to get the I.D. as I gave it back to her, at which point I grabbed her by the arm and attempted to take her into custody . . . [f]or the hit and run that she just admitted to.

          He said that when defendant pulled away he grabbed her again and " the momentum" took him inside the home two to three steps where he handcuffed defendant and completed the arrest.

          Following the arrest, Officer Staman placed defendant into the back of his patrol car. After she was advised of and waived her Miranda [1] rights, defendant provided further details about the crash, which she described to the officer as possibly a " road rage situation." Officer Staman detected a smell of intoxicants that was " moderate at best" and asked defendant if alcohol played a role in the crash. She opined that it had not, but did acknowledge drinking alcohol earlier in the night after finishing her shift as a bartender and later indicated that she thought her blood alcohol level may have been over the legal limit. When asked if she [504 Mich. 449] had any alcohol to drink after the accident, defendant replied, " Absolutely not." Once transported to the county jail, defendant was given two successive breath tests, which indicated a blood alcohol content over the legal limit at .22 and .21, respectively. Consequently, defendant was charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI), third offense, MCL 257.625, and failing to report an accident resulting in damage to fixtures, MCL 257.621.

          Defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress evidence and dismiss the charges. In the motion, she argued that Officer Staman had violated her Fourth Amendment rights by arresting her inside her home without a warrant and that all the evidence gathered following that arrest was subject to the exclusionary rule. The trial court denied the suppression motion, concluding that the arrest was constitutionally valid pursuant to United States v Santana, 427 U.S. 38, 96 S.Ct. 2406, 49 L.Ed.2d 300 (1976). Specifically, it found that defendant was " in the middle of a consensual discussion with Officer Staman" when she " voluntarily approached him" and " voluntarily reached out of her door." Therefore, the court concluded that Officer Staman " was legitimately in that area and it did not violate the constitution for him to effectuate an arrest by grabbing her arm when she reached out of her doorway." The fact that the officer stepped inside defendant's home to complete the arrest did not change the result, according to the trial court, because the officer was " clearly in pursuit for the arrest at that point . . . ."

          The case proceeded to trial. Defendant's theory of the case was that she became intoxicated only after the accident. However, she acknowledged that she did not tell any of the officers that she drank when she got home. Defendant's statements made to Officer Staman [504 Mich. 450] in his patrol car, as well as her blood-alcohol-content test results, were admitted at trial. After a jury trial, defendant was convicted as charged, and she was sentenced to five years' probation and four months in jail for violating MCL 257.625 and to a concurrent term of 60 days in jail for violating MCL 257.621.

          Defendant appealed, continuing to challenge the trial court's denial of her motion to suppress. The Court of Appeals, like the trial court, concluded that the arrest was constitutional under Santana, 427 U.S. at 42, and that the trial court had not erred by denying defendant's motion. People v Hammerlund, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued October 17, 2017 (Docket No. 333827). Defendant

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sought leave to appeal in this Court, and we ordered oral argument on the application.[2]

          II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

          We review a trial court's findings of fact at a suppression hearing for clear error. People v Williams, 472 Mich. 308, 313, 696 N.W.2d 636 (2005). We examine the facts as they were presented to the trial court at the time of the suppression hearing, not as supplemented by evidence presented at trial. People v Kaigler, [504 Mich. 451] 368 Mich. 281, 288, 118 N.W.2d 406 (1962). Our review of the trial court's application of Fourth Amendment principles, however, is de novo. People v Slaughter, 489 Mich. 302, 310, 803 N.W.2d 171 (2011).

          III. LEGAL BACKGROUND

          The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. [US Const, Am IV .][3]

          The touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness. Brigham City, Utah v Stuart, 547 U.S. 398, 403; 126 S.Ct. 1943; 164 L.Ed.2d 650 (2006); see also People v Mead, 503 Mich. 205, 212, 931 N.W.2d 557, Id. *6 (2019) (" The Fourth Amendment demands nothing more or less than reasonableness." ). In order to be reasonable, an arrest must be justified by probable cause. Dunaway v New York, 442 U.S. 200, 208; 99 S.Ct. 2248; 60 L.Ed.2d 824 (1979). " Probable cause to arrest exists where the facts and circumstances within an officer's knowledge and of which he has reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been or is being committed." People v Champion, 452 Mich. 92, 115; 549 N.W.2d 849 (1996).

         [504 Mich. 452] Even when based on probable cause, however, a warrantless search or seizure inside a suspect's home is presumptively unreasonable. Payton, 445 U.S. at 586 . In fact, the United States Supreme Court has recognized that " physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed." Id. at 585 (quotation marks and citations omitted). To protect against unreasonable intrusions into the home, a warrant is required to " interpose the magistrate's determination of probable cause between the zealous officer and the citizen." Id. at 602 . In other words, " the Fourth Amendment has drawn a firm line at the entrance to the house,"

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which " [a]bsent exigent circumstances . . . may not be reasonably crossed without a warrant." Id. at 590 ; see also Kirk v Louisiana, 536 U.S. 635, 638, 122 S.Ct. 2458, 153 L.Ed.2d 599 (2002) (" As Payton makes plain, police officers need either a warrant or probable cause plus exigent circumstances in order to make a lawful entry into a home." ). The burden of overcoming the presumption of unreasonableness attached to a warrantless entry rests on the prosecution. People v Oliver, 417 Mich. 366, 380, 338 N.W.2d 167 (1983).

          Warrantless arrests that take place in public upon probable cause do not violate the Fourth Amendment . United States v Watson, 423 U.S. 411, 423-424, 96 S.Ct. 820, 46 L.Ed.2d 598 (1976). In Michigan, this standard applies when probable cause exists for a misdemeanor. See People v Hamilton, 465 Mich. 526, 533, 638 N.W.2d 92 (2002) (" [P]robable cause to arrest for a felony is not required; rather, probable cause that a crime (felony or misdemeanor) has been committed is the constitutional requirement for an arrest." ), overruled in part on other grounds by Bright v Ailshie, 465 Mich. 770, 641 N.W.2d 587 (2002).

         [504 Mich. 453] IV. ANALYSIS

          As noted, the Fourth Amendment permits an arrest without a warrant in a public place as long as the police officer making the arrest possesses sufficient probable cause. Watson, 423 U.S. at 423. The officer in this case had probable cause to arrest defendant for failing to report an accident that caused damage to fixtures. MCL 257.621(a). He personally observed damage to the guardrail and cement barrier near defendant's abandoned vehicle. Further, defendant admitted to him that she was driving the car that caused the damage and that she did not report the accident to law enforcement. This information was more ...


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