A sheriff’s deputy who tried to serve a protective order was not justified in entering the backyard of a home after no one answered knocking at the front door, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled. The deputy saw marijuana in the backyard, leading to the homeowner’s arrest.
Hendricks County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Butterfield attempted to serve the protective order at the home of Duane Jadrich in Brownsburg. There were several signs on the property saying to use the front door, including on a closed gate on a fence. Butterfield went through the gate to the backyard and knocked on that door after no one answered. He saw what he thought was marijuana growing in the backyard.
Eventually homeowner Jadrich and his wife responded to knocking on a window and allowed the deputies inside, where they found marijuana in a smoking pipe. Jadrich was arrested and charged with drug offenses. He filed a motion to suppress, which was denied, and he was convicted of two misdemeanor charges.
On appeal in Duane Jadrich v. State of Indiana, 32A04-1302-CR-67, Jadrich argued that Butterfield conducted an unconstitutional warrantless search of his property. The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed his convictions.
The appellate court noted that the route to Jadrich’s back door is not one that visitors would reasonably view as open to the public. The judges looked to other jurisdictions to determine whether a police entry into curtilage or approach to a secondary entrance was justified.
“In summary, seemingly unanimous authority requires some justification before a police officer may permissibly venture into spaces not normally used by the public, such as approaching a secondary entrance to a house located in the curtilage,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote. “In some cases, this entry is justified by a reasonable belief that a person may be contacted by such entry, and in others by observations that indicate possible criminal activity. The record contains no evidence that indicates such justifications in this case, as Deputy Butterfield did not observe or hear anything before entering Jadrich’s back yard that would have led a reasonable person to believe that any criminal activity was afoot, anybody was in the back yard, or knocking on the back door was more likely to result in contact with anyone inside the house.”
“The State has failed to convince us that Deputy Butterfield’s purpose for being at Jadrich’s home — to serve a civil protective order — justified his foray into the back yard,” he continued. “The State points to no authority suggesting that the service of protective orders is a purpose that excuses police entry into areas that are otherwise constitutionally protected and off-limits.”