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State v. Charles V. Matalonis, 2014AP108-CR, petition for review granted 4/17/15

Review of an unpublished court of appeals decision; case activity (including briefs)

Issue (composed by On Point):

Did the community caretaker rule authorize police to conduct a “protective sweep” of a home even though the person who needed assistance had already been identified and transported to a hospital for treatment?

This case doesn’t appear to present any new issue about the test for whether the community caretaker exception to the warrant requirement has been met, as the court of appeals relied on the existing cases, including State v. Gracia, 2013 WI 15, 345 Wis. 2d 488, 826 N.W.2d 87, State v. Ultsch, 2011 WI App 17, 331 Wis. 2d 242, 793 N.W.2d 505, and State v. Pinkard, 2010 WI 81, 327 Wis. 2d 346, 785 N.W.2d 592. Rather, it appears to present only a dispute about how to apply that test in the circumstances of this case.

As explained in detail in our post on the court of appeals decision, a majority of the court held that a protective sweep of Matalonis’s home wasn’t justified under the circumstances because the person the police were aiding (Matalonis’s brother) had already been found and was being treated. The protective sweep of Matalonis’s home was, therefore, justifiable only if there was some reason to believe someone else was in danger, and a majority of the court concluded there was no objectively reasonable basis to believe anyone else was injured. A dissent took a different view of the matter, saying the conflicting stories about how Matalonis’s brother was injured gave a basis to search for other unknown persons.

The dissent no doubt emboldened the state to petition for review. We’ll find out next term whether the supreme court will modify the community caretaker exception in some way or—as seems more likely—will simply conclude the court of appeals reached the wrong result.


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