Consensual encounters between police officers and citizens, which do not require probable cause or reasonable suspicion, may occur in public places or on private property. In the recent Tennessee case of State v. Moore, M2012-02059-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 7-25-2013) a DUI second offense conviction was affirmed on appeal, in a case where the initial interaction between the investigating officer and the Defendant began in the driveway of the Defendant's home.
In the Moore case, a police officer on patrol had noticed a mailbox which had been struck and knocked down in someone's yard. After a conversation with the homeowner, the police officer drove around a corner to investigate a possible hit and run or vandalism. Observing the Defendant walking beside a white pickup truck parked at a home, the officer entered the driveway of that home to speak with the Defendant. The officer noticed the truck was warm, had body damage to the front driver's side, and that the Defendant appeared to be intoxicated. After a conversation where the Defendant admitted he had been driving the truck and had consumed a number of beers, the Defendant was arrested and a breathalyzer test subsequently revealed a blood alcohol content of .209.
The Defendant attempted to suppress the evidence, arguing that the Defendant had been illegally detained on his private property. Under the facts of this case, in which the police officer parked along the street, did not activate the blue lights, did not command the Defendant to stop, and did not use or show any authority or force to detain the Defendant prior to the discovery of evidence of DUI, the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the trial court ruling that it was a consensual encounter. The Court noted that a pathway or sidewalk leading from the street to the door of a home is an implied invitation to use that pathway in pursuing legitimate business or social interests with those inside the home. The police officer needed no objective justification to enter the property from the street to speak with the Defendant. After the initial consensual encounter, of course, probable cause developed for the Defendant's eventual arrest.
For more information on what interactions may be a consensual encounter, requiring no objective justification, contact Hindman & Associates.