What started as a woman sliding into a snowbank after a Christmas party has ended up before the North Dakota Supreme Court in an appeal over a Fourth Amendment violation.
Deanne Brekhus, 52, a resident of Mandan who formerly lived in Bismarck, was charged with driving under the influence and drug-related offenses stemming from Bismarck Police Officer Dillon Marquis’ traffic stop last December, which occurred in the detached garage of her residence. Chad McCabe, Brekhus’ attorney, motioned to suppress evidence in February, citing a violation of the Fourth Amendment as the officer had no warrant.
In April, South Central District Judge Sonna Anderson granted the motion. And on Tuesday, attorneys met before the state’s highest court for the city of Bismarck’s appeal in the case.
Assistant Bismarck City Attorney Melanie Dornonville de la Cour said the element of “hot pursuit” in the case precludes a Fourth Amendment violation.
From when the officer tried to stop Brekhus for her alleged traffic offense, she failed to stop for 30 seconds and made multiple turns before entering the open garage, the appellant attorney told the court, where Marquis and Brekhus met.
“Someone should not be able to defeat arrest by fleeing into a detached garage,” said Dornonville de la Cour, adding that a garage is considered an extension of one’s home.
Justices peppered her with questions about fleeing, a crime with which attorneys said Brekhus never has been charged or alleged to have done.
“She didn’t run. She didn’t drive fast,” McCabe said. “This is simply a person that was looking for a safe location.”
“So we should encourage drunk drivers to continue to drive to make it home?” Justice Lisa Fair McEvers asked.
Justice Jon Jensen questioned the justification for not immediately stopping, to which McCabe said it was cold and there was a better place at the time.
McCabe also said he’s encountered many driving-related defendants who are generally looking for a safe place to pull over in a traffic stop.
He also said the officer should have remained outside Brekhus’ Bismarck garage and asked her to come out.
Dornonville de la Cour responded with concerns that someone who enters a residence as part of a traffic stop could do actions out of sight: for example, drinking in the case of a DUI stop.
Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle said the court will take the matter under advisement.
Brekhus is charged with misdemeanor counts of DUI, possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, set for a Dec. 22 misdemeanor jury trial, which will include her initial traffic violation of care required.