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157210 - People v Dennis Keith Towne

The People of the State of Michigan,

 

William Worden

 

Plaintiff-Appellee,

 

v

(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)

 

 

(Livingston – Hatty, M.)

 

Dennis Keith Towne,

 

Michael Skinner

 

Defendant-Appellant.

 

Summary

Four state police troopers went to defendant’s home after 10:00 p.m. on a December night when they knew the power was out in the area to execute an arrest warrant for defendant’s son.  The troopers had information that the son lived elsewhere but may be staying with his parents.  Two troopers conducted a knock-and-talk with defendant at his front door, while the other two went to the rear of the house to prevent the son from escaping, if he was in the house.  Defendant refused consent for a search of his home.  Two troopers left to obtain a search warrant, while the other two remained behind to secure the home.  One trooper waited in his patrol car in the driveway to watch the front of the house, and the other walked through the backyard and stood near a tree line to watch the rear of the house.  After 45-50 minutes, the trooper smelled burning marijuana coming from the home.  After conferring, the troopers determined that exigent circumstances existed and forcibly entered the home without a search warrant.  They did not find the subject of the arrest warrant, but did find a large amount of marijuana.  Defendant was charged with manufacturing marijuana.  The district and circuit courts denied defendant’s motions to suppress the marijuana.  Defendant pleaded guilty to manufacturing marijuana, conditioned on his ability to challenge the actions of the police on Fourth Amendment grounds.  The Court of Appeals held in an unpublished opinion that there was no Fourth Amendment violation and affirmed defendant’s conviction.  The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision in light of People v Frederick, 500 Mich 228 (2017).  In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeals held that Frederick had no impact on its prior decision, and it reaffirmed that decision.  The Supreme Court has directed oral argument on defendant’s application for leave to appeal to address:  (1) whether the police exceeded the proper scope of a knock and talk when they approached and secured the defendant’s home at night while attempting to execute an arrest warrant for the defendant’s son, who lived elsewhere, see People v Frederick, 500 Mich 228 (2017); (2) whether the police had sufficient grounds to believe that the subject of the arrest warrant was inside the defendant’s home; (3) the appropriate standard to be used by a reviewing court to determine whether the police are permitted to enter a third-party’s home or curtilage to execute an arrest warrant, see Steagald v United States, 451 US 204 (1981); United States v Pruitt, 458 F3d 477 (CA 6, 2006); United States v Hardin, 539 F3d 404 (CA 6, 2008); (4) if the proper scope of a knock and talk was not exceeded in this case, whether the plain view or exigent circumstances exceptions to the warrant requirement permitted the police to forcibly enter the defendant’s home based on an officer’s perceptions while posted at the rear of the home in the curtilage or in an “open field”; and (5) whether the exclusionary rule should apply under these circumstances.​