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State v. Hamilton

Court of Appeals of Oregon

May 3, 2017

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JASON DAVID HAMILTON, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued and submitted December 19, 2016.

         Multnomah County Circuit Court 130532458; Angel Lopez, Judge.

          Kali Montague, Deputy Public Defender, argued the cause for appellant. With her on the brief was Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender, Criminal Appellate Section, Offce of Public Defense Services.

          Jamie K. Contreras, Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for respondent. With her on the brief were Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General.

          Before Armstrong, Presiding Judge, and Tookey, Judge, and Shorr, Judge.

         Case Summary:

         Defendant appeals a judgment convicting him of unlawful delivery of marijuana. On appeal, defendant assigns error to the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence discovered when police conducted a warrantless search of defendant's home. Officers responded to a 9-1-1 call from defendant's roommate. In that call, the roommate told offcers that he was in a dispute with defendant and that defendant was threatening to kill him. After entering defendant's home and removing defendant and his roommate, offcers searched the home to determine if any potential victims of an assault remained. Defendant contends that the trial court mistakenly concluded that the offcers' continued warrantless search of the house was justified under the emergency aid exception to the warrant requirement of Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution. Held: The trial court erred when it denied defendant's motion to suppress. The offcers' warrantless search of defendant's house after defendant and his roommate were removed from the home was not justified by the emergency aid exception to the Article I, section 9, warrant requirement because there was no evidence in the record that the offcers possessed a subjective belief that their search was necessary to immediately aid or assist a person who had suffered, or was imminently threatened with suffering, serious physical injury or harm.

          SHORR, J.

         Defendant appeals a judgment convicting him of unlawful delivery of marijuana. ORS 475.860 (2013), amended by Or Laws 2015, ch 1, § 78; Or Laws 2015, ch 614, § 122; Or Laws 2016, ch 24, § 44. On appeal, defendant assigns error to the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence discovered after police conducted a warrantless search of defendant's home after removing defendant and his roommate from the house. Officers searched defendant's home for potential victims of an assault after responding to a 9-1-1 call from defendant's roommate. In that call, the roommate told officers that he was in a dispute with defendant and that defendant was threatening to kill him. After the officers entered defendant's home and removed defendant and his roommate, the officers searched the home to determine if any potential victims of an assault remained. Defendant contends that the trial court mistakenly concluded that the officers' warrantless search of his home after defendant and his roommate were removed was justified under the emergency aid exception to Article I, section 9, of the Oregon Constitution. We agree with defendant and, accordingly, reverse and remand.

         We are bound by the trial court's findings of historical fact that are supported by constitutionally sufficient evidence. State v. Ehly, 317 Or 66, 75, 854 P.2d 421 (1993). Further, "[i]n the absence of express factual findings, we presume that the trial court decided the disputed facts in keeping with its ultimate conclusion." State v. Garcia, 276 Or.App. 838, 839, 370 P.3d 512 (2016). With that standard of review in mind, we state the following facts.

         Police officers were called to defendant's house to respond to a disturbance between defendant and his roommate. Officer Sapper, the first officer to arrive, was told by dispatch that a caller and his roommate (later determined to be defendant) were arguing and that defendant was threatening to kill the caller. Because of the volatility of the situation, Sapper chose to wait for back-up when he arrived, rather than enter the house alone. While he was waiting for additional officers to arrive, Sapper monitored the house. While waiting, Sapper could hear crashing noises and defendant screaming, "Get the fuck out of my house." However, Sapper did not hear any verbal threats of physical harm. Sapper could also see into the house. From his vantage point, he could see a number of objects that were broken on the floor and defendant walking through the house. Sapper could not tell how many people were in the house, however. As he made those observations, dispatch informed Sapper that the caller was now locked in his bedroom, armed with a baseball bat.

         While Sapper was waiting for additional officers, dispatch was also in contact with Officer Ellis. Dispatch initially told Ellis that the dispute was between a man and a woman and that there was a lot of screaming in the background of the call. As Ellis traveled toward the house, defendant's roommate, the caller, came on the line with Ellis and said that he was in a fight with one of his roommates, that he had barricaded himself in his bedroom with a baseball bat, and that he was preparing to defend himself. Ellis also noted that, while he was talking to defendant's roommate, there was a lot of screaming in the background.

         Eventually, additional officers arrived at the scene. Sapper and the newly arrived officers approached defendant's door and stood on the porch, planning what to do. While on the porch, Sapper heard additional crashing noises and what he believed was the sound of a person kicking in a door. Based on those noises and the knowledge that the caller had acquired a bat to defend himself, the officers entered the house through the unlocked front door.

         As the officers entered the house, defendant walked toward them with a large kitchen knife in his hand. Sapper pointed his pistol at defendant and told him to drop the knife. Defendant complied. Officers then handcuffed defendant and asked him if there was anyone else in the house. Defendant responded, "No. ...


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