Appellate Court rules police cannot enter home without warrant or consent to investigate accident

In a new decision, the Illinois Appellate Court, Second District, affirmed a ruling from a DeKalb County case, rescinding a DUI suspension and suppressing evidence, after police entered a man’s home, without a warrant or obtaining consent to enter, to investigate a  a report of a man acting confused and disoriented which lead to the discovery of a one car accident.  The case is People v. Swanson, 2016 IL App (2d) 150340.

In summary, the evidence showed that the defendant left a tavern and got into an accident on a cold, snowy and icy night.  He sought shelter at a nearby home, but the homeowner would not let him enter and instead called the police.  The defendant ran off, and ultimately arrived at home, where, according to his wife, he consumed alcohol to “warm up.”  Prior to his arrival at home, police had responded to the homeowner’s call, discovered the smashed vehicle, and visited the defendant’s home and spoke to his wife.  She was asked to call the police when he arrived, which she did, but when police arrived, she did not let them enter and told them that she was taking care of her husband.  The police entered anyway and arrested him for leaving the scene of an accident and DUI.

The case upheld a longstanding proposition of law that police cannot enter a person’s home without a warrant or without consent, unless there are exigent circumstances.

Lesson:  remember your rights.  Because this man’s wife insisted on them, the case against him is history.

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