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United States v. Lundin

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

March 22, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellant,
ERIC EUGENE LUNDIN, AKA Whitey, Defendant-Appellee

         Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California September 18, 2015.

Page 1152

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. No. 4:13-cr-00402-JST-1. Jon S. Tigar, District Judge, Presiding.


         Criminal Law

         In an interlocutory appeal by the government, the panel affirmed the district court's order suppressing handguns seized from the defendant's home, and remanded for further proceedings.

         The panel held that the warrantless search of the defendant's home was not justified by exigent circumstances. The panel explained that the " knock and talk" exception to the warrant requirement does not apply when officers encroach upon the curtilage of a home with the intent to arrest the occupant. The panel saw no reason to disturb the district court's finding that the officers' purpose in knocking on the defendant's door at 4:00 a.m., in response to a deputy's request that the defendant be arrested, was to find and arrest him. The panel held that the officers therefore violated the defendant's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful searches when they stood on his porch and knocked on his front door. Since this unconstitutional conduct caused the allegedly exigent circumstance-- crashing noises in the backyard--the panel concluded that that circumstance cannot justify the search resulting in the seizure of the handguns.

         The panel held that the warrantless search was not justified as a protective sweep, because the officers lacked a reasonable ground for believing that there was a danger that would have justified the sweep of the defendant's home.

         The panel held that the inevitable discovery exception to the exclusionary rule does not apply, because the officers knew they had probable cause to arrest the defendant but failed to obtain any warrant before coming onto his porch and knocking on his door with the intention of arresting him.

         Barbara J. Valliere (argued), Chief, Appellate Division, and Melinda Haag, United States Attorney, San Francisco, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

         Geoffrey A. Hansen (argued), Chief Assistant Federal Public Defender, Steven G. Kalar, Federal Public Defender, and Steven J. Koeninger, Research and Writing Attorney, San Francisco, California, for Defendant-Appellee.

         Before: William A. Fletcher, Marsha S. Berzon, and Carlos T. Bea, Circuit Judges.


Page 1154

          W. FLETCHER, Circuit Judge:

         Around 4:00 a.m. on April 23, 2013, three northern California law enforcement officers approached Defendant Eric Lundin's home without either an arrest warrant or a search warrant. They came onto his front porch and knocked on his door

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with the intent of arresting him. From the front porch where they were standing, the officers heard crashing noises coming from the back of the house. They ran to the back, ordered Lundin to come out of the fenced-in backyard, and arrested him. After putting Lundin in a patrol car, several officers briefly searched Lundin's home, including the back patio where they found two handguns in open view. The district court suppressed the handguns as the result of an illegal search. The United States appeals. We hold that the officers violated the Fourth Amendment when they knocked on the door at 4:00 a.m. without a warrant with the intent of arresting Lundin, and that the immediately ensuing search was illegal. We therefore affirm.

         I. Background

         At 12:24 a.m. on April 23, 2013, Deputy Sheriff Scott Aponte of the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office (" HCSO" ) was dispatched to the Mad River Community Hospital to interview Susan Hinds, a 63-year-old patient who claimed she had been kidnapped several hours earlier. In a tape-recorded statement, Hinds told Deputy Aponte that sometime after 8:00 p.m. on April 22, shortly after her son, Joseph Miller, had left to go to the store, Eric " Whitey" Lundin knocked on the door of her mobile home. When Hinds opened the door, Lundin grabbed her by the neck, forced his way inside, and accused Miller of stealing marijuana from him.

         Hinds told Deputy Aponte that, once inside the mobile home, Lundin took two firearms from his pockets -- a compact silver handgun and a large black handgun. He then took out a bottle of pills and forced Hinds to ingest one of the pills. He described the pills to Hinds as " methadone" and told her that they were the easiest way to overdose. After forcing Hinds to ingest the pill, Lundin broke her television by striking it with one of the handguns. Lundin then pressed the black handgun against Hinds's temple and forced her to call Miller to tell him to come home. When the call ended, Lundin snatched Hinds's cell phone and threw it across the room.

         Hinds told Deputy Aponte that Lundin repeatedly said that she was going to die and that, as a member of the Mongols motorcycle gang, he does not " leave witnesses." Lundin received two calls on his cell phone while still at the mobile home. Hinds heard him say during one of the calls, " ...

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