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State v. Clay

Court of Appeals of Oregon

September 6, 2018

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
WILLIAM JOSEPH CLAY, Defendant-Appellant.

          Submitted August 29, 2017

          Multnomah County Circuit Court 16CR09547; Bronson D. James, Judge.

          Bear Wilner-Nugent fled the brief for appellant.

          Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General, and Susan Yorke, Assistant Attorney General, filed the brief for respondent.

          Before Ortega, Presiding Judge, and Garrett, Judge, and Powers, Judge.

         Case Summary: Defendant challenges his conviction for coercion constituting domestic violence, ORS 163.275, asserting that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence and statements obtained after police officers forced entry into his apartment without first obtaining a warrant. The state argues that the warrantless entry was justified by the emergency aid exception. Held: The trial court did not err. The officers had an objectively reasonable belief that entry into defendant's apartment was necessary to immediately aid, or to assist someone who had suffered, or was imminently threatened with suffering, serious physical injury or harm.

         Affirmed.

          [293 Or.App 798] POWERS, J.

         Defendant challenges his conviction for coercion constituting domestic violence, ORS 163.275, asserting that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence and statements obtained after police officers forced entry into his apartment without first obtaining a warrant.[1]The state remonstrates that the trial court correctly concluded that the warrantless entry was justified by the emergency aid exception to the warrant requirement. We agree with the state that the officers had an objectively reasonable belief that entry into defendant's apartment was necessary to immediately aid, or to assist someone who had suffered, or was imminently threatened with suffering, serious physical injury or harm. Accordingly, we affirm.

         We review the denial of defendant's motion to suppress evidence for errors of law and, in so doing, we are "bound by the trial court's findings of fact if they are supported by the record." State v. Baker, 350 Or. 641, 650, 260 P.3d 476 (2011). If the trial court did not make explicit findings on facts that could be decided more than one way based on the evidence in the record, then we will infer that the court found those facts consistent with the trial court's ultimate conclusion. Ball v. Gladden, 250 Or. 485, 487, 443 P.2d 621 (1968). We describe the facts consistent with those standards of review.

         Officers Anderson and Delong arrived at an apartment complex based on a report that a neighbor heard sounds of a man and woman arguing and that the fight was escalating. Anderson and Delong parked a block away from the apartment complex and, as they walked toward the apartment complex, they could hear a man and a woman having a loud conversation but could not hear specifically what was being said. The apartment complex had approximately 100 units, and because the officers were dispatched to the general area and not a specific apartment, Anderson and Delong spoke with neighbors to confirm the apartment from which the loud argument was emanating. As the officers [293 Or.App 799] approached defendant's apartment, Anderson heard a door slam, both officers heard a man say "shut the fuck up," and Anderson testified that he heard, "shut the fuck up," a second time. The officers heard a woman who sounded like she was in distress, crying and whimpering. Then Anderson heard "a loud, loud thump, really severely loud," that sounded like a "big, loud crash." Additional officers arrived on scene. When they stood at the front of defendant's apartment, the officers did not hear any sounds coming from inside. The officers knocked for approximately 10 minutes and did not receive a response.

         Anderson testified that he was concerned for the safety of both the woman and the man inside the apartment, and "feared that somebody was injured or was going to be injured inside, more likely than not, based on what [he] could tell, the female." Delong, who was worried that the woman might be physically harmed, was "concerned that she was in danger, that she was being held against her will." After Anderson and Delong had been at the apartment complex for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, and after having knocked on the apartment door for approximately 10 minutes with no response, another officer used a small battering ram to force entry into the apartment.

         Once the officers were inside, Delong saw a man, later identified as defendant, walk out of the back bedroom and a woman, T, standing behind defendant in the doorway of the back bedroom. Delong placed defendant in handcuffs and took him outside to be interviewed. Anderson testified that T was crying, obviously shaken up, and that she thanked him for coming inside. Anderson interviewed T, and the investigation revealed that defendant sought to control T's movements by verbal threats.

         Defendant was charged with, among other crimes, two counts of coercion constituting domestic violence. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence obtained after the officers entered his apartment, arguing that the officers illegally entered his apartment because entry was not justified by a warrant or the emergency aid exception to the warrant requirement. He reasoned that the officers' belief was not objectively reasonable because neither officer testified [293 Or.App 800] about any sounds consistent with a physical altercation or injury. Defendant contended that all evidence collected after the warrantless entry should be suppressed, including his and T's statements and the officers' observations. The state argued that based on the totality of the circumstances-that the officers responded to a domestic violence call, heard multiple "shut the fuck up" statements by a man, the sound of a woman ...


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