STOREY v. TAYLOR, 696 F.3d 987 (Tenth Circuit, October 1, 2012)
I thought I had blogged this case last fall, but I don’t see it. At any event, the issue is whether a loud argument (as opposed to anguished screaming or gunshots or bludgeoning sounds or etc.) is enough for police to enter a dwelling without a warrant. Many policeman seem to think that a loud argument is automatic exigency, no warrant required. However, as Storey v. Taylor shows, this is not true.
On September 7, 2007, the Los Lunas, New Mexico Police Department received an anonymous call reporting a loud argument at Storey’s address. The Department dispatched Officers Taylor and Garcia to investigate.
When Taylor and Garcia arrived at Storey’s residence, they heard no argument. They knocked on the front door and Storey answered. Taylor’s belt tape reveals the following exchange:
TAYLOR: Hi. Was there an argument here?
STOREY: My wife was, yeah.
TAYLOR: Your wife was?
TAYLOR: OK, that’s why we’re here. What’s going on? Is your wife here now?
TAYLOR: She’s not here now?
TAYLOR: OK. Did she [inaudible] with you or what went on?
STOREY: We had a little argument. I don’t know who called.
TAYLOR: OK, she didn’t call, your neighbor called.
TAYLOR: OK. You guys stand outside arguing and fussing …
STOREY: Listen, listen, it wasn’t outside.
TAYLOR: Well, here’s the deal. Your neighbors called, OK.
STOREY: I was not outside.
TAYLOR: Well, it doesn’t matter. If they hear you, it’s the same as you being outside. Alright? That’s how that works. OK? I’m sitting here. As long as you guys are safe and there’s only one of you home, that’s all we’re concerned about.
TAYLOR: There’s no one else in the house with you?
STOREY: My dogs.
TAYLOR: Your dogs are in the house with you? OK. Is your wife coming home later, what’s going on with [inaudible]
Taylor then asked Storey about the subject of his argument with his wife. When Storey refused to tell him, he ordered Storey to exit the house:
TAYLOR: Now, what started the argument? [inaudible]
STOREY: Do I have to tell you everything?
TAYLOR: Yes you do. You have to tell me what’s going to be safe.
STOREY: I do not have to tell you anything.
TAYLOR: Sir, step out of the house.
TAYLOR: Step out of the house.
STOREY: I’m not doing it.
TAYLOR: You’re going to step out of the house.
TAYLOR: Listen. You shall obey my command and step outside the house or you go to jail. Step outside.
STOREY: I am not doing that.
TAYLOR: Step out of the house.
STOREY: Why are you doing this?
TAYLOR: You are going to comply with a lawful order. You don’t want to deal with this, you can go to jail.
At this point, Taylor appears to have pulled Storey outside, handcuffed him, and placed him under arrest. After another exchange that is mostly inaudible on the belt tape, Taylor said:
TAYLOR: You’re going to jail because you refuse to comply because you’ve got a case of the attitude.
STOREY: I’ll lay down on the ground if you want me to.
TAYLOR: Nope. You want to be a smart alec and you want to think you’re going to tell me your rights? Here, let me tell you State of New Mexico. You’re required to obey me when I issue you a lawful order. So now you can go to jail. Take him to jail. Resist to obey, twenty-five hundred dollars.
Garcia transported Storey to the police department, where he was charged with resisting, evading, or obstructing an officer.
Decision: No qi for Sergeant Taylor (no first name given) of the Los Lunas, New Mexico Police Department. No exigency exception. No community caretaking exception. Policeman needed to stay out of plaintiff’s house, recent loud argument notwithstanding.