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Q: Police officers went to my house, in the middle of the afternoon, looking for a stolen laptop computer.  Once there, they entered the vestibule, without ringing the doorbell or otherwise announcing their presence.  Inside the vestibule, one of the officers knocked on an inner door, separating the vestibule from the rest of the home.

My grown sister, who had heard the officers enter the vestibule, welcomed them inside, saying, “Thank God you’re all here.  Bro’s been acting up and cursing at Mom.  I was going to call you anyway, if he kept it up.”

She then directed the officers up the stairs, to my bedroom.  I blurted out, “That’s mine, but a kid gave it to me.”  Only fifteen years old at the time, I was arrested and charged with possession of stolen property, and I was placed with the Office of Children and Family Services.

A: Because the officers did not announce their presence, the entry into the vestibule may well have been illegal – but your sister’s hearty welcome ‘attenuated’ the taint of any initial unlawful entry.  There is no sign that your sister was intimidated: her consent was volunteered, immediate and spontaneous, and had not even been requested.

Moreover, the police misconduct here – walking through an unlocked front door into a vestibule, before knocking on an interior door – is not so flagrantly intrusive on personal privacy that its taint can never be dissipated.

In sum, a court is likely to hold that the evidence against you was not discovered by exploitation of some initial illegality.  Rather, the laptop was recovered by means sufficiently distinguishable to be purged of any taint from the initial entry.  I am afraid that you may not be home for a while.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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