Around midnight in Oct 2016 two officers in a marked patrol car were driving in the Capitol Street Corridor section of Milwaukee. This is a high crime area known for drugs and armed robberies and gin violence. As they drove through an intersection, they saw Richmond walking towards their direction on the sidewalk. He had his right hand in a kangaroo pocket on his shirt. As they drove past one officer saw a big bulge consistent with a handgun in the pocket. Richmond made eye contact with the officers then changed direction and quickly walked to a duplex. The officers did a U turn and got out of their car to talk to Richmond and as they did Richmond went up the five stairs to the front door porch of the duplex. He then opened the outer screen door and placed an object between the screen door and the bottom of the front door. They could not see what the object was but they suspected it was a gun.
The officers went up the stairs to the porch and one officer asked Richmond questions: What are you doing? Did you hear a shot? Are you carrying a weapon? During this time, the other cracked opened the screen door and found a gun. The screen door was opaque at the bottom so he didn’t know it was a gun until he opened the outer screen door. Richmond confirmed he was a convicted felon so he was arrested. The entire encounter lasted about 30 seconds.
The court held that the encounter on the front porch was a consensual encounter and that the limited search of the area where the officer suspected a gun was placed was reasonable under the totality of these facts and circumstances because the officers had a reasonable suspicion that the person was carrying a weapon and had placed it in the area between the outer screen door and the inner door.
Editor’s Note: This is an interesting decision which allows for a Terry Frisk of a part of the curtilage. This was a 2-1 decision with a very well-articulated dissenting opinion. We will have to keep our eye on this one to see how it develops!
To read or download the full opinion CLICK HERE