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March 30, 2017

MSC orders MOAA on whether exigent circumstances permitted a warrantless entry and whether defendant may withdraw plea after unconstitutional warrantless entry

In a case that has volleyed between the Michigan Supreme Court (“MSC”) and Court of Appeals, the MSC ordered mini oral arguments on two more issues. In People v. Horacek, No. 152567, the court wants to hear from the parties regarding “(1) whether exigent circumstances authorized the officers’ warrantless entry into the defendant’s motel room . . . and (2) if a constitutional violation did occur, whether the defendant is entitled to withdraw his plea.”
 
In People v. Horacek, the defendant was charged with armed robbery after allegedly robbing a convenience store. Following the robbery, he allegedly went back to his hotel room where, an hour later, police entered his room and arrested him without a warrant. The defendant moved to suppress his post-arrest statement and quash the information on the grounds that the warrantless entry arrest was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The trial court denied both motions.
 
After the Court of Appeals denied defendant’s application for leave to appeal, the MSC ordered the Court of Appeals to consider whether the warrantless arrest violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. The Court of Appeals noted that police officers may make a warrantless arrest where exigent circumstances exist “known to the police which prevent them from taking the time to obtain a warrant because to do so would thwart the arrest” (quoting the MSC). The Court found exigent circumstances: “(1) the need to prevent the destruction of evidence; (2) the need to ensure the safety of the police and citizens; and (3) the ability to secure a warrant.”
 
Although the Court of Appeals found that the search was constitutional, it nonetheless considered the second question: Whether the defendant could withdraw his plea if the search was unconstitutional. The court concluded that the defendant could have been prosecuted “even without the admission of his [allegedly unconstitutionally obtained] statement,” and his plea therefore would not have been able to be withdrawn.
 
To determine whether to hear an appeal of those rulings, the MSC ordered mini oral arguments on whether the warrantless arrest violated the defendant’s rights and whether, in light of such a violation, the defendant would be entitled to withdraw his plea.

Disclaimer: WNJ represents Mr. Horacek in his appeal.

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