By Gretchen Schuldt
A police officer who walked briskly to catch up to a man who did not want to talk to him was in "hot pursuit" and so was entitled to enter the man's garage without a warrant, a State Court of Appeals judge ruled this week.
A police officer went to Steven D. Palmersheim's home after a witness complained that Palmersheim was "all over the road" with his car and that Palmersheim publicly urinated after leaving his car, District II Court of Appeals Judge Mark D. Gundrum wrote.
Gundrum's ruling reversed Waukesha County Circuit Judge Michael J. Aprahamian, who found there was no hot pursuit and granted Palmersheim's motion to suppress evidence.
City of Waukesha Police Officer Richard Young watched Palmersheim walk from his vehicle toward the the garage attached to his house. The garage door was open.
The officer first politely said he wanted to talk to Palmersheim, Gundrum wrote. When Palmersheim did not stop, the officer yelled at him to do so.
Palmersheim turned and looked at the uniformed officer, then turned and continued into the garage.
"The officer 'briskly walked and hustled up to try to catch up' to Palmersheim," Gundrum wrote.
Palmersheim hit the button to close the garage door, and the officer put his foot in a position to break the beam and the door to retract.
The officer asked Palmersheim to come out of the garage and he did so. He denied driving recklessly or urinating by the vehicle, but the officer saw a "stream" coming from beneath Palmersheim's vehicle that could have been urine.
Palmersheim was arrested for second offense operating while intoxicated and disorderly conduct.
"Upon cross-examination, the officer expressed that by 'briskly walking' toward Palmersheim to prevent him from entering his residence, he was 'chasing' Palmersheim in 'hot pursuit' for urinating in the street," Gundrum wrote. "The officer added that he 'certainly stepped up [his] pace to catch up' to Palmersheim although '[t]he distance wasn’t that far'.”
The officer had enough probable cause to arrest Palmersheim, Gundrum said.
"Upon cross-examination, the officer expressed that by 'briskly walking' toward Palmersheim to prevent him from entering his residence, he was 'chasing' Palmersheim in 'hot pursuit' for urinating in the street." – State Court of Appeals Judge Mark Gundrum
"Within the particular context of this case, where Palmersheim, as far as we can tell from the record, did not run from the officer but nonetheless continued to steadily advance closer to the escape of his abode, and even attempted to close the garage door, which obviously would have aided his escape, the officer’s pursuit of Palmersheim was 'immediate' and 'continuous' and amounted to a hot pursuit tailored to prevent Palmersheim’s escape under these circumstances," Gundrum wrote.
The definition of "hot pursuit" depends "on the particular circumstances of each case," Gundrum wrote.
"In this case, there is no indication Palmersheim ran from the officer, so hot pursuit could be accomplished by the officer 'stepp[ing] up [his] pace' to 'briskly walk[ing] and hustl[ing] up' to try to catch Palmersheim," he said. "The officer then stopped the closing of the garage door as part of his pursuit. The manner in which the officer engaged in hot pursuit was appropriately measured to the manner Palmersheim used to try to evade the officer."
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
Sign up for the free WJI newsletter.
Help WJI advocate for justice in Wisconsin