Question: Can Officers Lie To Gain Entry Into Your Home Without Exigent/Urgent Circumstances?
Defendant called the police to report a domestic dispute with her husband. Officer responded to the call and she told him that they had been arguing and the argument escalated into a shoving match. From previous experience, Officer was aware that this was an on-going issue. Husband also called 911 and was 2 blocks away. Officers observed that he had 2 small scratches on his head, a swollen left eye, and what appeared to be a small puncture wound in his abdomen. Husband told the Officers that Defendant had attacked him with scissors and had struck him multiple times with her fist. Officers returned to the residence intending to arrest her for domestic battery. She spoke to them through the door and then opened it so that the screen door was still there and closed. Officers asked if she could step outside to talk. She said that she did not want to go outside due to the fact that it was cold. Officers then asked if they could step inside to speak with her and she said, “No.” Officers then asked her if she would sign a document for a protective order. At which time she opened the screen door and Officers stepped in to affect an arrest. So, even though Defendant expressly told the officers that they could not enter her home and had no reason to be inside her house. Defendant was not wearing any shoes at the time of her arrest, so Officer accompanied her to her kitchen to retrieve them. While standing behind her and without any warning to Defendant concerning what he was about to do, Officer attempted to remove her wedding ring. In response, Defendant immediately and violently thrust her shoulders forward pulling away from him causing him to lose his grip on her. Officers then placed their hands on her shoulders, forcibly sat her down in a kitchen chair and proceeded to remove the ring. Officer did so because anything that could be taken off the body has to be taken off before transporting the individual to the jail in Marion County. Neither officer explained this policy to Defendant prior to attempting to remove her wedding ring. Defendant was subsequently charged only with resisting law enforcement; she was not charged with domestic battery. A bench trial was held and the court specifically found that the Officers used a “ruse” to enter her home, but concluded that she consented to entry when she opened her door to them. The trial court then found Harper guilty as charged and Defendant appealed.
The Appellate Court noted that under the 4th Amendment, searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable. The physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed. 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. Although Officer’s purpose for entering the home was to arrest her, he was still required to obtain an arrest warrant before entering her private residence. This was not a situation of hot pursuit or a crime committed in the presence of the officer. The State did not argue any other exigent circumstances, or any reason at all, that would have made it impracticable for Officers to obtain an arrest warrant. Further, opening the door to ascertain the purpose of an interruption to the private enjoyment of the home is not an invitation to enter, but rather is a common courtesy of civilized society. Attendant to this courtesy is the ability to exclude those who are knocking and preserve the integrity of the physical boundaries of the home. This is particularly true where an intervening screen or storm door remains closed. In the case before us, Defendant never abandoned the privacy interest in her home. She simply opened her front, prime door to answer Officer’s knock, and after she did so, she stood behind the closed screen door to speak with him. Defendant never crossed the threshold of her residence onto her stoop or porch. In addition, she expressly denied the Officers entry to her home, and rather than obtain a standard warrant for her arrest, Officer chose to use fraud to enter the residence to arrest her.
For all of these reasons, we conclude that Officers unlawfully entered the residence, and therefore, the Officers were not engaged in the lawful execution of their duties at the time they arrested her and then attempted to remove her wedding ring in preparation for booking. Accordingly, the evidence is insufficient to support a conviction for resisting law enforcement. 3 N.E.3d 1080