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Supreme Court Affirms Denial of Motion to Suppress Evidence in DUI Case

In State v. Amy Koenig, 2016 VT 65 (June 3, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the denial of defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that led to her processing for DUI.

Issue: After receiving a tip about a car being erratically driven in Bethel, the arresting trooper went to the registered owner’s address. He saw a covered structure enclosed on three sides with two open doorways that left the structure open to be viewed from the street. The trooper saw the reported car parked inside the structure, and saw two entryways to the building, one of which was in the covered structure. He went to that entryway, walking past the car in the process. The trooper then conducted field sobriety tests and a breath test, and arrested defendant for DUI. Defendant then attempted to suppress the evidence that was obtained and observed by the trooper when he walked through the structure and saw the car. The trial court denied defendant’s motion to suppress, finding that “a reasonable person would consider the entryway inside the attached structure to be a point of normal access.” Defendant appealed.

Holding: The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of defendant’s motion to suppress, finding that the evidence on the record was enough to establish that there was a reasonable, objective basis for the trooper’s belief that the visible entryway through the covered structure was a “normal point of public access to the residence.” Because the trooper’s conduct was reasonable, it was not in violation of the 4th Amendment or Article 11 of the Vermont constitution.

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