June 15, 2018 – Steven Delap twice eluded police on foot, but two officers finally chased him down and pushed open his residence door to arrest him. Recently, a unanimous Wisconsin Supreme Court found no constitutional violations.
Sheriff deputies in Dodge and Walworth counties both experienced similar events in 2015: traffic stops where the driver fled the vehicle on foot and escaped.
In one case, the passenger identified the suspect as Steven Delap, who lived at 110 Milwaukee St. in Neosho. In the other case, deputies has reason to believe the absconder lived at 110 Milwaukee Street in Neosho, Delap's residence.
Walworth County Sergeant Michael Willmann ran Delap’s name through the state Department of Transportation and National Crime Information databases and learned that Delap had two outstanding arrest warrants.
Willman and a deputy planned a visit to Delap’s known residence. They parked down the street, around 10 p.m., and walked towards the location, which was part of a duplex.
When they arrived at what they believed to be the location of 110 Milwaukee Street, they saw a man standing next to a car in the driveway and another man walking down the driveway, towards the car. The man walking down the driveway saw the sergeant and the deputy approaching, turned around, and ran toward the back of the duplex.
Willmann and the deputy chased the suspect and shouted for him to stop. The sergeant later testified that he believed the suspect was Delap, based on the circumstances.
And it was Delap, who slipped in the back door of the duplex and tried to close the door, but Willmann and the deputy pushed their way in, tasered Delap and arrested him.
Ultimately, Delap was charged with obstructing an officer and possession of drug paraphernalia. Delap had crack cocaine paraphernalia in his pocket.
Delap filed a motion to suppress, which was denied, and he pleaded no contest. The circuit court had ruled that police lawfully entered Delap’s residence under the hot pursuit doctrine, which can justify warrantless home entries when a suspect flees.
An appeals court affirmed, on the same grounds of hot pursuit. But in State v. Delap, 2018 WI 64 (June 6, 2018), the Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed on other grounds.
“We conclude that the instant case is governed by Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573 (1980), and we need not address the applicability of the hot pursuit doctrine,” wrote Justice Shirley Abrahamson, writing for the unanimous court.
Under Payton, police may enter a residence with an arrest warrant if police officers reasonably believe the subject of the arrest warrant lives there and police reasonably believe the suspect is actually home at when police entry is occurs.
Federal courts are divided on what is a “reasonable belief,” Justice Abrahamson noted, but it didn’t matter in this case, she noted:
“We need not (and do not) decide today whether ‘reasonable belief’ means ‘probable cause’ or something less stringent because, in the instant case, the officers had probable cause to believe the defendant resided in the duplex into which he fled.”
Justice Michael Gableman wrote a concurring opinion, joined by Justice Daniel Kelly. He agreed that entry was lawful under Payton, but would have addressed the hot pursuit doctrine also, because the court has been “splintered” on that issue.
Justice Gableman said the entry was also justified by the hot pursuit doctrine, which requires immediate pursuit with probable cause to arrest a suspect for a jailable offense.