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State v. Ionescu

Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, District II

November 13, 2019

State of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent,
Jeffrey L. Ionescu, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL from a judgment of the circuit court for Waukesha County No. 2016CF1005, LEE S. DREYFUS, JR., Judge. Affirmed.

          Before Neubauer, C.J., Reilly, P.J., and Gundrum, J.

          GUNDRUM, J.

         ¶1 Jeffrey Ionescu appeals 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.


         ¶2 Following Ament and Condor's tracking of a burglary suspect through multiple yards, onto the property of Ionescu's mother, and ultimately up to the door of a motor home in which Ionescu stayed, Ionescu was arrested and charged with multiple offenses. He brought a motion to suppress evidence asserting that Ament and Condor could not lawfully enter onto his mother's yard without a warrant. An evidentiary hearing was held, at which the following relevant evidence was presented.

         ¶3 Ament testified that shortly after 4 a.m. on June 6, 2016, he was dispatched to a New Berlin home due to a report of a burglary in progress. Ament was informed that the homeowner had heard noises in his garage, investigated, and found an individual inside of his vehicle. Upon Ament's arrival at the home, the homeowner informed Ament that the burglary suspect had fled, cutting west across the homeowner's yard. Due to the dew on the ground, Ament "could see one set of footprints heading where the homeowner said he saw the suspect last run."

         ¶4 Ament and Condor began tracking the burglary suspect, [1] and:

Condor takes me down the road and we lose that track on the road because it is very difficult to track there. However, at a point he does again locate a track that heads through a series of backyards. During that time at various points I can see one set of footprints in that dew based on the conditions of the grass that are sometimes apparent and sometimes not. Condor is filling in those gaps.

         The set of footprints was consistent with those Ament observed leaving the homeowner's residence, "seem[ed] to follow a direct series," and was the only set Ament saw in the area. Ament and Condor traversed approximately ten to twelve backyards, losing the track one more time, but finding it "and verify[ing] with footprints again." After tracking for twenty to thirty minutes and approximately 2000 feet, Ament and Condor followed the track largely along the property line between two properties, from the back of the properties to the front. A motor home was parked in the front of one of these properties. Coming up the property line to "the edge of the motor home," Condor "immediately [took] a hard left turn" and Ament "c[ould] see those same footprints. The dog as well as the footprints go directly to the … door of that motor home." Condor "sat and stared at the door," which informed Ament that Condor had "finished his track and he thinks that the person is in there."

         ¶5 An officer who was with Ament knocked on the door of the motor home, but there was no answer. They then walked to the front door of the house on the property and made contact with Ionescu's mother, who indicated she owned the residence and the motor home but that Ionescu "stayed" in the motor home. She willingly opened the motor home for the officers and gave them permission to enter. According to the criminal complaint, the officers found Ionescu as well as a watch that had been stolen from the homeowner's vehicle.

         ¶6 The circuit court found that the pursuit began "in very close proximity" to when the burglary occurred.

As soon as the homeowner had contact with the individual that took off, [he] called the police and they responded in short order…. They see a track going the direction the homeowner described as the individual took off in and they began following it.... The officers were following what would be a current track or believed to be a current track. Ultimately, it led to the Ionescu property.

         The court denied the suppression motion, expressing that it was "satisfied" the circumstances that "led up to the contact and the search w[ere] appropriate."[2]Ionescu pled to the burglary ...

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