Search & Seizure Update: The Limits of a “Knock and Talk” Visit

Officer holding a gun and badge

Law enforcement officers are supposed to conduct “knock and talks” during normal “awake” hours.


The issue of search and seizure is one that we’ve discussed here on our blog many times in the past. It’s a very important subject, and one that raises with it a lot of controversy and complaint. In Michigan, search and seizure laws are the subject of almost constant debate. New appellate rulings interpreting and clarifying our law come through often. Many people feel strongly that Michigan law doesn’t do enough to protect our citizen’s Fourth Amendment rights.


As a result, search and seizure cases get a lot of press time, and often spend a great deal of time winding their way through the courts, seeking resolution. This happened again recently, where two separate cases were considered by the Michigan Supreme Court, namely People vs. Frederick and People vs. Van Doorne. The results are, in our opinion, quite positive.


The issue in question is whether a “knock and talk” conducted by police in the predawn hours resulted in a violation of Fourth Amendment rights. Frederick and Van Doorne are individuals whose names police discovered during a marijuana investigation. Because officers suspected that the pair may be involved in criminal activity relating to the production of marijuana butter, they decided to visit the homes of each one and talk to them.


This is a routine part of conducting an investigation, and something that many Michigan police officers do while investigating crimes. However, the average “knock and talk” is conducted during daylight hours, or in the early evening, when it is expected that people will be at home and awake.

A “knock and talk” is supposed to happen when people would normally be available to talk.


However, in these cases, the officers knocked on Frederick’s door at around 4 am, and on Van Doorne’s door later on at about 5:30 am. In both cases the people living in the home were asleep when officers began knocking, and woke up to discover police officers pounding on their doors. In both cases the occupants of the homes were told about the investigation and advised of their Miranda rights.


Both Frederick and Van Doorne consented to a search of their respective homes at that time. Police discovered marijuana butter and other marijuana related products. These were seized and both defendants were arrested and charged. However, both defendants went on to file motions to suppress the evidence found in their homes during those early hours “knock and talk” visits.


The trial courts denied their motions to suppress the contraband, and so did our Michigan Court of Appeals. Fortunately the pair didn’t stop there. The cases were both appealed  to the Supreme Court, where in a unanimous opinion, the justices decided that police had overstepped their bounds and trespassed on Frederick and Van Doorne’s properties.


The reason provided was that the police had exceeded the scope of the implied license to conduct a “knock and talk.” In addition, it was determined that because officers were looking for information about suspected criminal activity when they trespassed, the subsequent searches violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. Contraband this is located during an unlawful or unconstitutional search is called “fruit of the poisonous tree”. In this case, the butter containing the weed was the fruit and the bad search was the poisonous tree. The Supreme Court suppressed the evidence and the prosecution was not permitted to use that evidence.


Although most Michigan police officers are hard working and dedicated individuals, there are a small number who seem to have issues adhering to the law. This is sometimes referred to as “cowboying” or vigilantism. If you or a loved one have been the victim of police over-reach, or have had your constitutional rights violated by law enforcement, contact the experienced defense attorneys at The Kronzek Firm immediately at 866 766 5245. We are here to defend your rights and protect your future.

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