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Name: People v. Thompson
Case #: S130174
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 06/01/2006

Strong evidence that a suspect was driving while intoxicated and a reasonable fear that evidence would be destroyed justified a warrantless entry into a house to arrest a suspect. A witness saw the defendant passed out in his vehicle, and then saw him stumble around, toss an empty vodka bottle out of the car, pass out again, and then drive away. Because she could tell that he was intoxicated, the witness followed the defendant and called 911. Although the defendant managed to get home before officers witnessed his erratic driving, police arrived at his house a short time later. The officers spoke to the defendant, who remained inside the house and was visibly intoxicated. When the defendant refused to come outside to have his blood tested for the presence of alcohol, the police entered the house without a warrant to arrest him for the criminal offense of driving under the influence. The appellate court reversed the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress, holding that under Welsh v. Wisconsin (1984) 466 U.S. 740, the Fourth Amendment categorically prohibits warrantless entries into the home to effect a DUI arrest when the asserted exigency is merely to prevent the destruction of blood-alcohol evidence. The California Supreme Court reversed, distinguishing Welsh on the grounds that it involved an arrest for an offense that carried no jail time, and finding that exigent circumstances — i.e., the need to collect blood alcohol evidence before the evidence of intoxication dissipated — justified the warrantless entry.