State v. Stanley, ___ N.C. App. ___, 817 S.E.2d 107 (May. 15, 2018)

The knock and talk conducted by officers in this drug case violated the fourth amendment. After a confidential informant notified officers that he had purchased heroin from a person at an apartment located at 1013 Simmons Street, officers conducted three controlled drug buys at the apartment. On all three occasions the purchases were made at the back door of the apartment from an individual named Meager, who did not live there. Officers then obtained a warrant for Meager’s arrest and approached the apartment to serve him. Upon arrival, they immediately walked down the driveway that led to the back of the apartment and knocked on the door. Events then transpired which lead to, among other things, a pat down of the defendant and the discovery of controlled substances on the defendant’s person. The defendant was arrested and charged with drug offenses. He filed a motion to suppress which was denied. He pled guilty, reserving his right to appeal. On appeal, the court addressed the defendant’s argument that the knock and talk was unlawful. It began by noting that officers may approach the front door and conduct a knock and talk without implicating the fourth amendment. However, it also noted that knock and talks occurring at a home’s back door have been held to be unconstitutional. It held: to pass constitutional muster the officers were required to conduct the knock and talk by going to the front door, which they did not do. Rather than using the paved walkway that led directly to the unobstructed front door, they walked along the gravel driveway into the backyard to knock on the back door, which was not visible from the street. This was unreasonable. The court rejected the trial court’s determination that the officers had an implied license to approach the back door because the confidential informant had purchased drugs there. The court stated: “the fact that the resident of a home may choose to allow certain individuals to use a back or side door does not mean that similar permission is deemed to have been given generally to members of the public.” The court recognized that “unusual circumstances in some cases may allow officers to lawfully approach a door of the residence other than the front door in order to conduct a knock and talk.” However no such unusual circumstances were presented in this case and the knock and talk was unconstitutional.