By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
The conviction of a Gillette man on charges of drug possession and driving under the influence of intoxicants has been overturned by Wyoming’s Supreme Court, which ruled sheriff’s deputies improperly entered the man’s apartment without a warrant.
Justices overturned the convictions of Dillon Wayne Fuller, saying the evidence collected after police entered his apartment without a warrant should have been suppressed.
Police said they were in “hot pursuit” of Fuller and did not have to obtain a warrant to enter his home, but justices disagreed.
“Quite simply, there was no compelling need requiring immediate police action,” said the ruling, written by Justice Keith Kautz.
According to the ruling, the incident stemmed from an attempt by Campbell County Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Kellison to stop a vehicle driven by Fuller in downtown Gillette for not having a visible registration.
When Kellison turned on his vehicle’s emergency lights, Fuller’s vehicle sped up to 40 mph and the driver refused to pull over. The vehicle traveled four blocks to a single-story apartment complex. There, Fuller parked the vehicle, jumped out of it and ran to an apartment, refusing two orders from Kellison to stop.
Kellison called for backup and interviewed a passenger in Fuller’s vehicle while he waited for other officers to arrive.
After backup officers arrived, several went to the door of Fuller’s appointment, knocked and announced their presence three times and then kicked in the door.
Inside the apartment, they smelled alcohol and marijuana on Fuller and found marijuana and drug paraphernalia in plain view. Kellison then obtained a search warrant for the apartment.
Fuller was charged with felony driving while under the influence of intoxicants and felony possession of a controlled substance, along with fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer.
Fuller asked that all evidence found in his apartment be suppressed because the officers entered without a warrant.
The trial court in his case agreed with police who said they were involved in a “hot pursuit” at the time and did not need to obtain a warrant.
But justices agreed there was no emergency requiring a “hot pursuit” and immediate action by police, finding that when Kellison called for backup and interviewed the passenger in Fuller’s car, his pursuit of Fuller had ended.
“At the time the officers entered Mr. Fuller’s apartment, there was no emergency requiring immediate police action,” the ruling said.
As a result, any evidence obtained when officers entered Fuller’s home should not be admissible, the ruling said.
“While Mr. Fuller was eventually arrested and charged with driving under the influence and possession of marijuana, the evidence support those charges was not discovered until after the officers unlawfully entered Mr. Fuller’s apartment,” it said.