SUPERVISORY WRIT FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT
PARISH OF VERMILION, NO. 61780 HONORABLE EDWARD B. BROUSSARD,
A. Stutes District Attorney COUNSEL FOR RESPONDENT: State of
Ayo Attorney at Law COUNSEL FOR RESPONDENT: State of
Brucker COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPLICANT: Brandon Nolan
composed of John D. Saunders, John E. Conery, and Van H.
D. SAUNDERS, JUDGE.
Brandon Nolan, was charged by bill of information filed on
May 15, 2017, with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, a
violation of La.R.S. 14:68.4, and flight from an officer, a
violation of La.R.S. 14:108.1. Defendant filed a motion to
suppress with memorandum in support thereof on July 25, 2018.
The trial court denied the motion at a hearing held on
January 31, 2019.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
filed a notice of intent to seek review of the trial
court's ruling on February 1, 2019. A return date, which
was timely extended, was set. Defendant is now before this
court via application for writ of supervisory review seeking
reversal of the trial court's denial of his motion to
only assignment of error, Defendant contends the trial court
erred in denying his motion to suppress because law
enforcement entered the curtilage of his home without a
warrant to check the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of
the car he was allegedly driving.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
protects "[t]he right of the people to be secure in
their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against
unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const. amend.
IV. Similarly, the Louisiana Constitution provides that
"[e]very person shall be secure in his person, property,
communications, houses, papers, and effects against
unreasonable searches, seizures, or invasions of
privacy." La. Const. art. 1, § 5. As a general
rule, searches and seizures must be conducted pursuant to a
validly executed search warrant or arrest warrant.
Warrantless searches and seizures are considered to be per se
unreasonable unless they can be justified by one of the
Fourth Amendment's warrant exceptions. State v.
Freeman, 97-1115 (La.App. 5 Cir. 12/29/98), 727 So.2d
630. The state has the burden of showing that one of the
exceptions applies. Id.
State v. Vail, 17-354, pp. 46-47 (La.App. 3 Cir.
12/28/17), 236 So.3d 644, 676, writ denied,
18-202 (La.App. 3 Cir. 11/20/18), 256 So.3d 998, cert.
denied, U.S., 139 S.Ct. 1232 (2019). See also
La.Code Crim.P. art. 703(D). "'The trial court is
afforded great discretion when ruling on a motion to
suppress, and its ruling will not be disturbed absent abuse
of that discretion.' State v. Lee, 05-2098, p.
15 (La. 1/16/08), 976 So.2d 109, 123." Vail,
236 So.3d at 678.
motion, Defendant sought to suppress all evidence and
testimony regarding the VIN of the vehicle he was driving
when he was arrested. He alleged the viewing of the VIN by
police was an unconstitutional search because it was
conducted during an unlawful warrantless intrusion into the
curtilage of his home. Furthermore, even if the intrusion
into the curtilage was not unlawful, the search of the
vehicle was not a search incident to arrest and the
automobile exception did not apply. Defendant relied on
Collins v. Virginia, ___ U.S. ___, 138 S.Ct. 1663
(2018), to support his claims. In Collins, the
Supreme Court was called upon to determine whether the
automobile exception permitted the warrantless entry of a
home or its curtilage in order to search a vehicle therein.
The Supreme Court found that it did not.
State called a single witness at the hearing on
Defendant's motion to suppress. Officer Joshua Hebert was
employed by the Abbeville Police Department on February 1,
2017. He observed Defendant driving a maroon GMC Yukon on
Charity Street. Defendant was not wearing a seat belt.
Officer Hebert activated the vehicle's lights. Defendant
either flagged Officer Hebert to follow him or go around him.
Officer Hebert then activated the vehicle's siren and
"called in the vehicle for refusing to stop."
Defendant stopped six or seven blocks later at his residence.
Defendant pulled "head first" into the driveway
"in front of the front door." Officer Hebert pulled
up behind Defendant. Defendant was placed on the ground
because he refused to stop. He was then handcuffed. Backup
officers subsequently arrived.
Trent Guidry ran the VIN on the Yukon, and it came back
stolen from Harris County, Texas. The VIN was visible through
the front windshield, and police had to stand in the driveway
to see it. Defendant had been handcuffed and arrested at that
time. Police did not have a search warrant. Defendant's
residence was depicted in Defense Exhibit 1.
trial court denied the motion, finding the case
distinguishable from Collins, as Defendant was
writ application, Defendant argues police entered the
curtilage of his home to search the vehicle without a
warrant, and there were no exigent circumstances present that
would have permitted such entry without a warrant. Defendant
asserts the State attempted to justify the intrusion by
claiming his failure to stop was an exigent circumstance.
However, even if that were true, hot pursuit did not justify
a search of his curtilage after police had already arrested
him. The State presented no evidence suggesting that
destruction of evidence was a concern. Moreover, the evidence
was not in plain view. Defendant contends the search in this
case is identical to that in Collins.
discuss the facts of Collins. During the
investigation of two traffic incidents involving an orange
and black motorcycle with an extended frame, Officer David
Rhodes learned that the motorcycle was probably stolen and in
Collins' possession. Officer Rhodes discovered
photographs on Collins' Facebook profile of an orange and
black motorcycle parked in the driveway of a house, drove to
the house, and parked on the street. From there, he could see
what appeared to be the motorcycle under a white tarp parked
in the same location as the motorcycle in the photograph.
Without a search warrant, Office Rhodes walked to the top of
the driveway, removed the tarp, confirmed that the motorcycle
was stolen by running the license plate and vehicle
identification numbers, took a photograph of the uncovered
motorcycle, replaced the tarp, and returned to his car to
wait for Collins. When Collins returned, Officer Rhodes
Collins, the Supreme Court discussed the meaning of
curtilage as follows:
[T]the Fourth Amendment's protection of curtilage has
long been black letter law. "[W]hen it comes to the
Fourth Amendment, the home is first among equals."
Florida v. Jardines, 569 U.S. 1, 6, 133 S.Ct. 1409,
185 L.Ed.2d 495 (2013). "At the Amendment's
'very core' stands 'the right of a man to retreat
into his own home and there be free from unreasonable
governmental intrusion.'" Ibid. (quoting
Silverman v. United States, 365 U.S. 505, 511, 81
S.Ct. 679, 5 L.Ed.2d 734 (1961)). To give full practical
effect to that right, the Court considers curtilage-
"the area 'immediately surrounding and associated
with the home' "- to be" 'part of the home
itself for Fourth Amendment purposes.'"
Jardines, 569 U.S.___, at 6, 133 S.Ct. 1409 (quoting
Oliver v. United States, 466 U.S. 170, 180, 104
S.Ct. 1735, 80 L.Ed.2d 214 (1984)). "The protection
afforded the curtilage is essentially a protection of
families and personal privacy in an area intimately linked to
the home, both physically and psychologically, where privacy
expectations are most heightened." California v.
Ciraolo, 476 U.S. 207, 212-213, 106 S.Ct. 1809, 90
L.Ed.2d 210 (1986).
When a law enforcement officer physically intrudes on the
curtilage to gather evidence, a search within the meaning of
the Fourth Amendment has occurred. Jardines, 569
U.S.___, at 11, 133 S.Ct. 1409. Such conduct ...