A police officer in a small town near Denver had a conversation with a woman outside her home on a May evening last year.
That exchange took a turn when the Erie resident ended the interaction and sought to enter her house via its adjoining garage. The officer grabbed her wrist at the point, preventing her from doing so.
His stated reason: he had reasonable grounds to suspect her of having driven while drunk, and he wanted to perform field sobriety tests to confirm his suspicions.
The woman agreed to those tests, and failed them. She was subsequently arrested on a DUI charge.
Notably, the story really begins at just that point.
Notably, prosecutors eventually dropped the charge, saying that the state lacked sufficient evidence to proceed with the matter.
And then the woman got active, responding to the interaction at her home with a federal lawsuit alleging that the officer’s conduct violated her constitutional rights. Her complaint, which was filed recently against the police department and town of Erie, contends that the forced detainment in her garage was an impermissible search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Because the exchange occurred on her property and within the so-called “curtilage” of her home, it could only be deemed lawful if it proceeded pursuant to a lawfully executed search warrant.
It did not. And the lack of a warrant, the suit charges, worked a violation of her civil rights.
The defendants deny the allegations and have petitioned the court to dismiss the case.
The matter is both interesting and widely relevant in the context of police/citizen encounters that result in arrests and criminal charges, especially when a warrantless search and seizure occurs within the environs of a home. Questions or concerns regarding any such scenario can be directed to a proven Denver DUI defense attorney.