The Dominion Post

Driver challenges officer’s entry right

- MARTY SHARPE

‘I knocked several times without response. I pulled the sliding door sideways and realised it was unlocked. I then believed he was either inside the property or about to flee.’

A POLICE officer who found an upturned vehicle in a ditch, covered in blood and smelling of alcohol, had no right to enter the driver’s home under new search and surveillan­ce laws, the driver claims.

Samuel Ericksen, 39, has pleaded guilty to careless driving, but not guilty to drink-driving.

He defended the charge in Napier District Court yesterday, with his lawyer, Scott Jefferson, saying that police had no authority to enter Ericksen’s house.

Evidence was provided by Constable Mark Brinsdon, who was alerted to Ericksen’s upturned vehicle in Brookfield­s Rd, Napier, at 1.46am on September 6 last year.

He said a passing motorist stopped and told him he had seen a man ‘‘with blood streaming from his face’’ walk from the vehicle, heading south.

In checking the vehicle, Brinsdon found ‘‘a considerab­le amount’’ of blood smeared across the windows, and noticed a strong smell of alcohol.

‘‘I believed there was a risk to life or safety to the person or persons from the crashed vehicle and that they may require emergency services,’’ Brinsdon said

He found a wallet with a driver’s licence belonging to Ericksen, and, discoverin­g Ericksen lived just 100 metres down the road, he went to his house.

‘‘I knocked several times without response. I pulled the sliding door sideways and realised it was unlocked. I then believed he was either inside the property or about to flee the property to avoid apprehensi­on,’’ Brinsdon said.

The Search and Surveillan­ce Act 2012 empowers police to enter a property to arrest someone if they have reasonable grounds to believe there is a person there who has committed an offence punishable by imprisonme­nt, and if they believe that the person could leave the address to avoid arrest. Constable Mark Brinsdon testifies in Napier District Court.

Brinsdon entered the house and yelled, ‘‘Police, does anyone require help?’’ before finding Ericksen in a bed with blankets over his face.

Ericksen identified himself. He had a cut on his nose and blood coming from his mouth.

Brinsdon said Ericksen slurred as he spoke and smelled of alcohol. He was taken by ambulance to Hawke’s Bay Hospital.

A blood sample revealed an alcohol reading of 195 milligrams per 100 millilitre­s of blood, more than twice the 80mg limit at the time.

In cross-examinatio­n, Jefferson asked Brinsdon how he could have had reasonable grounds to believe that Ericksen had contravene­d blood alcohol procedures.

Jefferson told Judge Tony Adeane: ‘‘There wasn’t sufficient reasonable grounds for the constable to believe that the driver of the vehicle was affected by alcohol, therefore could enter the house.’’

The judge said police would be ‘‘derelict in their duty’’ if they came to a house that was not secured, with a reasonable basis for believing someone was hurt inside, and did not enter it to find that person, provided they identified themselves.

The trial was adjourned today.

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