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Domestic Violence Case Increases WI Police Powers

A Wisconsin appeals court ruled to allow evidence collected by police without a search warrant during a domestic violence call to be used in subsequent proceedings. The appeals court’s unanimous decision supports the power of police in domestic violence situations where an officer has reason to believe an urgent response is necessary. According to court records, the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Department received a 911 call saying Mr. Mark Mielke had kicked his girlfriend so hard that she was spitting blood. Two deputies responded to the call, and found the woman shaking and crying, but with no evident physical damage. The woman told the deputies that nothing was wrong and that they couldn’t come inside the house. 11-year veteran deputy Rachael Miller believed the woman was in danger and physically prevented the door from closing. She then saw Mr. Mielke and received his permission to enter the home, where he was arrested for battery, reckless endangerment of another’s safety, and being armed while under the influence of alcohol. The trial judge ruled that the situation was not urgent enough to justify the officer’s entering the home without a search warrant, and that Mielke’s constitutional rights were violated, forcing the evidence to be disregarded. In a unanimous appeals court decision, the court ruled that because domestic violence victims often refuse to report the abuse, Officer Miller could “reasonably believe” that the woman’s demeanor indicated her safety was threatened. Domestic violence advocates praised the ruling’s implications for the use of police discretion when an officer has reason to believe that a domestic violence victim is in danger.

Sources:

Associated Press, 09/06/02

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