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Van Hollen Hails Supreme Court Decision Extending the Police "Community Caretaker" Function

 

"Once again, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has duly recognized that law-enforcement officers not only investigate criminal activity but also engage more broadly in "community caretaker" activity to help those in need of immediate attention." Attorney General J.B Van Hollen. 

 

MADISON - The Wisconsin Supreme Court today expressly recognized that police may make a warrantless entry to a home as part of their "community caretaker" function under circumstances that reasonably suggest the occupants may be victims of a crime or possible drug overdose, and that when police do so, they may seize evidence of criminal activity that they find in plain view.

 

The Supreme Court's 4-3 decision affirms the Milwaukee County convictions of Juiquin Anthony Pinkard for possession of cocaine with intent to deliver and felony bail jumping.  Pinkard, who pled guilty to the charges, was sentenced to three years' initial confinement and five years' extended supervision.

 

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen applauded the decision, authored by Justice Patience Drake Roggensack, observing:  "Once again, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has duly recognized that law-enforcement officers not only investigate criminal activity but also engage more broadly in "community caretaker" activity.  And when police are properly acting as a first-responder, including their entry into a residence, they may seize evidence of criminal activity found in plain view."

 

In the present case, the Supreme Court concluded that the following constellation of factors support the conclusion that Milwaukee police lawfully entered Pinkard's residence as community caretakers out of concern that Pinkard or his companion might be victims of a crime or possible drug overdose:

 

            "(1) police received a reliable anonymous tip that the occupants of Pinkard's home appeared to be sleeping near drugs, money and drug paraphernalia and that the rear door of the home was standing open; (2) the officers responded to Pinkard's house because they were concerned about the "health and safety" of the occupants; (3) the officers' corroboration that the rear door was indeed standing open; and (4) the officers repeatedly knocked and announced their presence before entering the house and before entering the bedroom with no response of any type from Pinkard or his companion."

 

The Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office prosecuted the case, and Assistant Attorney General James M. Freimuth represented the State of Wisconsin in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

 

The decision may be found at the following link:
http://www.wicourts.gov/sc/opinion/DisplayDocument.pdf?content=pdf&seqNo=52197