J.K. v. State, No. 66A03-1306-JS-220, __ N.E.3d __ (Ind. Ct. App, Apr. 29, 2014).

Robb, J.

J.K. appeals the juvenile court’s adjudication of J.K. as a delinquent based on acts of illegal possession of alcohol, illegal consumption of alcohol, and aiding illegal consumption of alcohol. He raises one issue for our review: whether the trial court admitted evidence against J.K. in violation of his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, where law enforcement officers entered J.K’s curtilage, conducted a knock and talk lasting approximately one hour, and entered the residence without a warrant. Concluding the officers’ entry onto J.K.’s curtilage, their lengthy knock and talk, and eventual residential entry were unreasonable searches under the Fourth Amendment, we reverse.

In the early hours of December 22, 2011, the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department received a complaint regarding a disturbance in the vicinity of Decker Drive in Winamac, Indiana. The complainant informed law enforcement that a number of juveniles were pushing a shopping cart through the neighborhood, making noise, and causing dogs to bark. Winamac Police Department Officers Brian Gaillard and Mark Hoffman were dispatched and arrived at J.K’s residence at approximately 1:11 a.m. Shortly after, Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department Reserve Deputy John Haley arrived on scene. The officers observed several vehicles parked outside the residence, one of which was a pickup truck with a shopping cart in the bed of the truck. The officers suspected the cart had been stolen from an Alco store, which was approximately a mile away. A check on the truck’s license plate revealed that the truck belonged to a person who Officer Hoffman knew lived elsewhere.

Officer Hoffman knocked on the front door. In the meantime, Officer Gaillard and Officer Haley went through the yard around either side of the residence to ensure that no one attempted to flee from a back exit. No one answered the door, but Officer Hoffman observed persons moving around inside and peeking through the blinds. When Officer Haley entered the back yard and approached the back door, he was able to see through a window and observed over a dozen empty beer cans and wine cooler bottles on the kitchen counter. Officer Haley went to the front to inform Officer Hoffman of the empty alcohol containers, and when he returned to the back of the house minutes later, he discovered that someone inside the residence had removed the cans and bottles from view.

After ten or fifteen minutes without a response from the occupants, Officer Gaillard called for a tow truck to impound the pickup truck that contained the shopping cart. For an additional forty minutes after calling for the tow, the officers remained on the front porch and in the back yard. Officer Hoffman continued to knock at the front door and yell inside, instructing the occupants to answer the door and telling them the truck would be towed. Officer Gaillard spoke on the phone with a deputy prosecuting attorney, who told him not to impound the pickup truck. The tow truck arrived at 2:04 a.m., before Officer Gaillard had an opportunity to cancel the tow.

Upon arrival of the tow truck, seventeen-year-old T.T., who owned the pickup truck, opened the front door of the residence and stepped outside. T.T. exhibited signs of intoxication, including slurred speech and an odor of alcohol. The officers told T.T. to retrieve the owner of the residence, and J.K., also seventeen years old, came to the door. J.K.’s eyes were bloodshot. When J.K. came to the door, he was on the phone with his mother, who owned the residence. J.K.’s mother was over an hour away but was on her way home. Officer Gaillard spoke with J.K.’s mother, and the officers then entered the residence without a warrant and before J.K.’s mother arrived at the home.

. . . .

We conclude the officers’ warrantless entry on J.K.’s curtilage, including both the sides of the house and back yard, violated the Fourth Amendment. Further, we hold the officers’ presence at the home and continually knocking for approximately one hour without an answer from an occupant exceeded their implied invitation to knock and talk and constituted an unreasonable search in contravention of the Fourth Amendment. Finally, we would also conclude the officers’ warrantless residential entry was unconstitutional. All evidence against J.K. was obtained consequent to these constitutional violations. Accordingly, his adjudications must be reversed.

CRONE, J., concurs.

SHEPARD, S.J., dissents with separate opinion:

J.K.’s lawyer places two assertions before us. He says one officer unconstitutionally entered his backyard, and he claims the officers stayed too long at his property and knocked on his door too many times.

My reaction to these two points is that the officer’s stay in the backyard produced no evidence supporting the juvenile finding that is being appealed, and that the continued knocking is not what led the juveniles inside ultimately to step outside, visibly impaired from drinking.

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