Most DUI arrests take place out on the street following a stop for some traffic violation or after a collision, however, more frequently the police are entering the homes of suspects after obtaining information that the occupants may have been driving while intoxicated.
The facts in this case are as follows: PVE police responded to the home of a driver believed to be DUI after they received a 911 call. The officers saw the car in the driveway and proceeded to enter through a 6 foot high gate to enter the yard in order too contact the person or persons inside. Upon entry they saw the defendant and asked her to come outside whereupon she was given FST’s, made admissions of recent driving and arrested for DWI and taken to the station for a breath test that showed a .14 BAC. Attorney Matthew Ruff filed a motion in Torrance Court seeking a dismissal of the charges based on the fact the police entered the curtilage of the home without a warrant and arresting his client.
The Judge hearing the case agreed with the attorney and suppressed the evidence that was obtained. The “curtilage” of a home is that area surrounding the residence that is intended to be private. Matthew argued that a fence surrounding the backyard of a single-family residence is much more likely to demonstrate a reasonable expectation of privacy because yards are fairly private to the extent they’re not readily visible to the public and are not places where normal access routes are ordinarily found. As the Court of Appeal observed, “A person who surrounds his backyard with a fence and limits entry with a gate, locked or unlocked, has shown a reasonable expectation of privacy”. In this case, the PVE police should have applied for a warrant before entering the property.