State v. Ionescu, 2019 Wisc. App. LEXIS 610 (Nov. 13, 2019)

Police received a 4 am burglary call, and an officer with a dog tracking smell and the officer tracking footprints in the dew on the ground led to defendant’s property. The officer knocked and defendant’s mother let the police in. Inside was defendant, and he had a watch that was from the burglary. The entry on the property was in hot pursuit and the entry into the house was by consent.

Jeffrey Ionescuappeals from his judgment of conviction for burglary, challenging the circuit court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence. Specifically, he claims New Berlin Police Officer James Ament, a K-9 officer, violated his Fourth Amendment rights when Ament and his trained tracking dog, Condor, entered onto the yard of Ionescu’s mother without a warrant while tracking a burglar, Ionescu. Because we conclude Ament’s entry was lawful as he was in “hot pursuit” of Ionescu, we affirm.

Our state supreme court and the United States Supreme Court have both recognized that “law enforcement officers may make a warrantless entry onto private property … to engage in ‘hot pursuit’ of a fleeing suspect.” Weber, 372 Wis. 2d 202, ¶28 (quoting Brigham City v. Stuart, 547 U.S. 398, 403 (2006)). “The basic ingredient of the exigency of hot pursuit is ‘immediate or continuous pursuit of [a suspect] from the scene of a crime.’” Weber, 372 Wis. 2d 202, ¶28 (alteration in original) (citing State v. Richter, 2000 WI 58, ¶32, 235 Wis. 2d 524, 612 N.W.2d 29)

While Ionescu also argues this was not a hot pursuit because it took twenty-five to thirty minutes for Ament and Condor to successfully track Ionescu to the motor home, “at a speed of approximately .75 miles per hour,” these observations do not undermine the hot pursuit analysis. Tracking a suspect’s footprints and scent in the dark is necessarily a time-consuming task, and the amount of time will of course depend on how far the suspect has fled.