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A Better Partnership
July 07, 2015

MSC to address the constitutionality of expanded “knock and talk” procedures

The Michigan Supreme Court granted leave to appeal in People v. Radandt, No. 150906, to determine whether police officers unlawfully expanded a “knock and talk” procedure by entering the defendant’s backyard and walking onto a wooden deck.  If the Court finds a constitutional violation did occur, it will also consider whether the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applies under the facts of this case.
 
In December 2011, St. Joseph County law enforcement received a tip that marijuana was being grown at the defendant’s home.  The officers went to the property and conducted a “knock and talk” procedure in an attempt to make contact with the homeowner.  Officers first knocked on a front door and when no one answered, they proceeded to knock at a sliding glass door in the backyard of the residence.  The officers observed and smelled signs of marijuana through the glass and left the home to obtain a search warrant.  Upon executing the warrant, the officers found 45 marijuana plants and grow equipment.
 
The defendants moved to suppress all evidence obtained during the officers’ visit to the home, as well as evidence obtained after execution of the warrant, claiming the officers engaged in an unlawful search and seizure by using the “knock and talk” procedure as a subterfuge to investigate the property for evidence of criminal activity.  After hearing testimony on the issue, the trial court concluded it was reasonable for the officers to have proceeded to the backyard after observing signs the residents were likely present and therefore denied the defendants’ motion to suppress.  Consequently, the defendants entered conditional guilty pleas to one count of manufacturing between 20 and 200 marijuana plants, MCL 333.7401(2)(d)(ii).
 
The defendants proceeded to apply for leave to appeal to the trial court’s denial of their motion to suppress.  The Court of Appeals denied their applications and remanded the cases back to the trial court.  Click here for our previous post on the Court of Appeals order.  The defendants applied for leave to appeal the appellate court’s decision with the state’s Supreme Court.  In lieu of granting leave to appeal, the Michigan Supreme Court remanded the case to the appellate court to consider whether the police officers unlawfully expanded a “knock and talk” procedure by entering the defendant’s backyard and walking onto a wooden deck, which was attached to the home.  On December 2, 2014, in a per curium opinion, the Court of Appeals held that the officers did not unlawfully expand the scope of the knock and talk procedure.  In response, the defendants filed an application for leave a second time with the high court.  In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Florida v. Jardines, 569 U.S. 1 (2013), which considered a similar issue and focused on whether or not the door is a public entrance used by strangers, the defendants’ application for leave was granted.  

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