Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk


†††† Criminal; Search & Seizure; Whether Warrantless Entry was Justified Based on Exigent Circumstances. †New Jersey police, while conducting a homicide investigation focused on Malik Singer, learned that a cellular telephone associated with their investigation was in the area of 239 Knickerbocker Avenue in Stamford.† They contacted Stamford police, informing them of their belief that Singer was in that area.† The landlord of the building at the Knickerbocker Avenue address told Stamford police that an African-American male matching the suspectís general description had been "keeping company" with the daughter of his third floor tenant.† The police obtained the tenant's consent to enter the apartment and, on questioning the tenant, learned that two black males were in a bedroom with the tenant's daughter.† When the police entered the bedroom, the defendant reached for something near the bed.† After securing the defendant, the police discovered a backpack containing a revolver, but they did not find Singer or the cell phone in the apartment.† The defendant was arrested and convicted of criminal possession of a firearm.† He appealed, claiming the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the handgun and certain statements that he made to the police as the fruits of an unlawful search and seizure.† In denying that motion, the trial court found that there were exigent circumstances justifying the warrantless entry of the bedroom.† The Appellate Court (132 Conn. App. 473) reversed, finding that exigent circumstances did not justify the entry because a police officer would not have had reasonable grounds to believe that Singer was in the apartment and that the police based their belief on a chain of attenuated speculation without any positive identification of Singer.† In so concluding, the court noted that in State v. Aviles, 277 Conn. 281 (2006), a factually similar case, the warrantless entry into a bedroom was justified based on exigent circumstances because the police officers could see the suspect through an open doorway.† Here, in contrast, the Appellate Court found that the police were not relying on either their own or an eyewitness' affirmative identification of Singer or any indicia of his residency at that address.† The court observed that the information regarding the possible location of the cell phone did not connect Singer to the residence at the time of entry, that the tenant never affirmatively identified Singer and that the landlord's identification did not connect Singer to the apartment at the time of entry.† The Supreme Court will now review the Appellate Court's determination that the trial court improperly denied the defendant's motion to suppress based upon the exigent circumstances doctrine.