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Arrest – Probable Cause – Specific Examples: Drug Activity

State v. Dwight M. Sanders, 2007 WI App 174, affirmed on different ground, 2008 WI 85
For Sanders: Patrick M. Donnelly, SPD, Madison Appellate

Issue/Holding: Police lacked probable cause to arrest for a drug offense under the following circumstances:

¶15 At the time the officers pursued Sanders into his home, the officers knew that the residence was located in an area known for drug trafficking and that Sanders was holding in his hands folded-up money and a canister that appeared to be of the type typically used to transport drugs. Further, Sanders refused to cooperate with their investigation and retreated to the inside of his home when the police ordered him to stop. However, neither of the officers actually saw drugs on Sanders or any of the other individuals in the backyard for that matter. The officers had no prior history with Sanders and no knowledge of any previous participation in drug-related activity. The residence was not known as a drug house. Further, the canister Sanders held in his hand was a beef jerky can and the officers did not see any drugs. Given this absence of evidence specifically connecting Sanders to illegal drugs, we conclude that the officers could not have reasonably believed that Sanders was committing or had committed a drug crime.

The supreme court affirmed on review, but didn’t reach the issue summarized above, 2008 WI 85, ¶25 (“Assuming without deciding that the warrantless entry into the defendant’s home was justified under the Fourth Amendment ….”).


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