“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”-- Abraham Lincoln
This week’s case brings us to Holbrook, Long Island, out in Suffolk County. Holbrook is a stone’s throw away from Lake Ronkonkama. The Ku Klux Klan held meetings on the shore of Lake Ronkonkoma in the 1920s. Local Klan members focused more on Catholics and Jews than blacks, and burned crosses on the lawns of enemies. The Klan died out by the mid-1930s in that area. Lake Ronkonkoma is essentially a natural well that taps the underground water table that covers an area of 20 square miles. According to local folklore, almost every year for 200 years someone has drowned in Lake Ronkonkoma.
This is a case about the power of the police to intrude into your home, with no warrant.
Megan Parris, single mother of a 13-year-old boy living with her father; Daxx, an Uber driver; Megan’s dad; Suffolk County Police Officer Anthony Rosati
Officer Rosati received a radio call about an incident at an apartment complex in Holbrook. The call concerned Daxx, an Uber driver who reported that his passenger had damaged his vehicle. Officer Rosati arrived at the scene and observed a vehicle up a small embankment into the bushes. After Officer Rosatti spoke with Daxx, he arrested Megan. Megan was charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle, petty larceny; and, leaving the scene of a property damage accident.
Testimony of Daxx
Q. Megan was your passenger?
A. Yes. She was going home to her apartment in Holbrook.
Q. What happened when you arrived there?
A. When I was dropping her off, she told me that she had lost her ring in the car.
Q. How did you respond?
A. I got into the rear of the car to help her search for the ring. When I told her that I couldn't find it, she accused me of taking it.
Q. What did you do next?
A. I got out of my car to call 911.
Q. What did Megan do?
A. Megan got into the driver's seat, put it into reverse and let it roll up the embankment into the bushes. Then she got out of the car and ran away.
Q. What happened then?
A. When I went to get my ID I realized that my wallet was gone and I believed that Megan had taken it.
Testimony of Officer Rosati
Q. After you spoke with Daxx, what did you do next?
A. I had obtained Megan's address from the apartment’s security guard and responded to her apartment with another officer. The lights were off in the residence so I knocked at the door. Lights came on in the apartment and a female came to the door, opening it approximately 18 inches, but she did not come outside. I identified the person as Megan Parris and I asked her what had happened with the Uber driver.
Q. What did Megan say?
A. Megan stated that she was abused by the driver, but I told her that he did not believe her. I also asked her about the wallet, but she said that she did not know what I was talking about and asked about her jewelry.
Testimony of Megan
Q. Did Officer Rosati respond to you when you asked about your jewelry?
A. He told me that I was going to be placed under arrest.
Q. What did you do then?
A. I tried to close the apartment door, but Officer Rosati had his foot in the doorway to stop me from closing it. He then reached across the doorway and he grabbed my arm, and he pulled me outside the door. And then he handcuffed me.
Q. Did Officer Rosati advise you of your rights?
A. No. He asked if anyone else was in the apartment, and I told him that my 13-year-old son was there.
Q. What happened next?
A. Officer Rosati went in the apartment and I told him that he could not do that. Then he said that he could not leave a 13-year-old alone and that he had to make sure that he was alright. Then Officer Rosati went up the stairs where my father was.
Q. Did Officer Rosati speak with your Dad?
A. Yeah. But the other cop put me into a patrol car so I didn’t hear what they were talking about.
Testimony of Megan’s Father
Q. What did Officer Rosati say to you?
A. He said that my daughter was in big trouble but that I could help her. He asked me to speak with Megan about the location of the driver's wallet.
Q. What did you say?
A. I wanted to help, so I talked her into giving the officer the information he needed.
Q. Did Megan respond?
A. Yeah. Megan said that she threw the wallet but didn't remember where. I told that to Officer Rosati.
Q. After you told the police what your daughter said, what happened next?
A. They took Megan to the precinct for processing.
Megan’s Closing Argument
“The rule is that, without a warrant, the police cannot cross the threshold of a suspect's home to make an arrest.
Your Honor, in People v. Min Chul Shin, the court ruled that the defendant while standing in the doorway of their home was exposed to public view and so they could not claim that they had a legitimate expectation of privacy. Same thing here, Judge.
Not the same thing here.
Officer Rosati crossed the threshold of Megan's home when he reached in and grabbed her arm and pulled her from the apartment to arrest her.
Rule: Where law enforcement officers have summoned a suspect to the door of their home, and they remain inside the home's confines, they may not effect a warrantless 'across the threshold' arrest in the absence of exigent circumstances.
Examples of exigent circumstances:
- Public safety was endangered,;
- Weapon was involved;
- Evidence might be destroyed; or
- Megan was in danger of fleeing.
Also, Megan’s father was acting as an agent of the police when he was requested to get information regarding the wallet. It was as if Megan’s father was working as an investigator for the police; therefore, and statements made by Megan to her father were obtained illegally and could not be used against her.
Pulling Megan out of her apartment without a warrant? Probably not a good idea. All statements made to the police in this scenario cannot be used against Megan at her trial.
At least Daxx got his wallet back.
Here is the case: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2019/2019_51371.htm