[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Larimer County District Court No. 14CR1120. Honorable Gregory
M. Lammons, Judge.
J. Weiser, Attorney General, Frank R. Lawson, Assistant
Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee.
Matthew Fredrickson, Alternate Defense Counsel, Lakewood,
Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant.
Judges: Opinion by JUDGE PAWAR. Dailey and
Terry, JJ., concur.
[¶ 1] Department of Human Services (DHS) caseworkers
entered the home of defendant, Leah Sue Dyer, without a
warrant. We hold, as an issue of first impression in
Colorado, that DHS caseworkers are subject to the Fourth
Amendment . We further hold that the caseworkers'
warrantless entry in this case was illegal, and therefore the
trial court was required to suppress all evidence obtained as
a direct result. Because the trial court failed to suppress
this evidence, we reverse Dyer's conviction of first
degree child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury and
remand for a new trial.
[¶ 2] Dyer's mother called the DHS and
alleged that Dyer was neglecting her seven-year-old daughter,
S.D., who suffered from a seizure disorder. DHS caseworkers
tried to contact Dyer and her daughter at their home but were
unsuccessful. The caseworkers then sought and received an
order to investigate under section 19-3-308(3)(b), C.R.S.
2019. They did not obtain a search warrant under section
19-1-112(1), C.R.S. 2019.
[¶ 3] Over the next several days, the
caseworkers, accompanied by police officers, repeatedly tried
to contact Dyer and her daughter at their home, again without
success. On the third day, police officers went to Dyer's
home without the caseworkers. They knocked on the door and
Dyer answered. The officers informed Dyer of the order to
investigate. Though the order did not authorize their entry
without Dyer's consent, they told her that they needed to
come inside to check on S.D. When her initial objections did
not cause law enforcement to leave, Dyer eventually stepped
aside and the officers entered the home.
[¶ 4] Once inside, the officers inspected
the home, spoke to both Dyer and her husband, and contacted
the caseworkers to let them know that they had gained entry
to the home. The officers also observed S.D. experience what
appeared to be a seizure and requested an ambulance.
[¶ 5] After the apparent seizure ended, the
caseworkers and paramedics arrived at and entered the home.
The caseworkers inspected the home and talked to Dyer and her
husband while the paramedics tended to S.D. Without
Dyer's or her husband's permission, the paramedics
loaded S.D. into an ambulance and took her to the hospital.
Dyer requested but was not permitted to ride in the ambulance
with her daughter, so she and her husband drove themselves.
The caseworkers and police officers also drove to the
[¶ 6] At the hospital, S.D. was taken to the
emergency department, and Dyer was again denied access to
her. Before she was allowed to see her
daughter, a police officer asked Dyer if
she would participate in an interview. Dyer agreed to the
interview, and it was conducted by a police officer and a
caseworker in a makeshift private room at the hospital.
Months later, Dyer gave another statement to police about
many of the same topics covered in the hospital interview.
[¶ 7] The prosecution charged Dyer and her
husband with child abuse and, over Dyer's objection,
jointly tried them. The prosecution alleged that Dyer and her
husband had engaged in a pattern of conduct that allowed
S.D.'s condition to deteriorate to a point where she was
severely underweight, had stopped talking and feeding
herself, and was unable to go to the bathroom by herself.
[¶ 8] Before trial, Dyer moved to suppress much of
the evidence obtained by police, caseworkers, and paramedics
on the day they came to her home and took S.D. to the
hospital. Dyer argued that the officers, caseworkers, and
paramedics had entered her home illegally. She sought to
suppress all evidence obtained as a direct result of that
illegal entry. Alternatively, she argued that all of her
statements to officers, caseworkers, and doctors that day
should be suppressed because they were unwarned custodial
statements obtained in violation of Miranda v.
Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694
(1966), and were also involuntary.
[¶ 9] The trial court ruled that the
officers' initial entry into Dyer's home was illegal
and therefore suppressed the officers' observations from
inside the home. The court next found, however, that the
caseworkers' and paramedics' entries were legal and
admitted their observations from inside the home. The court
also admitted Dyer's interview with the officer and
caseworker at the hospital, as well as her later police
interview, holding that these statements were noncustodial
[¶ 10] The jury found Dyer guilty of child
abuse. The trial court entered a judgment of conviction and
sentenced her to fifteen years in the custody of the
Department of Corrections.
[¶ 11] Dyer appeals. She argues that the
trial court erred by (1) failing to suppress the
caseworkers' and paramedics' observations from inside
her home, and her interview at the hospital; (2) denying her
motion to sever her case from her husband's; (3) failing
to give several jury instructions; and (4) admitting other
[¶ 12] We agree with Dyer's first
contention that the trial court erred by failing to suppress
the caseworkers' and paramedics' observations from
inside her home and the statement she gave at the hospital to
the authorities. We also conclude that this error requires
reversal. We therefore address her additional alleged errors
only to the extent that they are likely to recur on retrial.
Officers' and Caseworkers' Illegal Entries Require
[¶ 13] Dyer argues that the trial court
erred by failing to suppress the caseworkers' and
paramedics' observations from inside her
home and the statements she made at
the hospital. We agree.
[¶ 14] Reviewing a trial court's
suppression ruling presents a mixed question of fact and law.
See People v. Hyde, 2017 CO 24, ¶ 9. We
defer to the trial court's factual findings if they are
supported by the record and review the court's legal
conclusions de novo. Id.
[¶ 15] The Fourth Amendment
provides that individuals shall be free from unreasonable
searches and seizures. U.S. Const. amend. IV . A
warrantless search of a person's home is presumptively
unreasonable and therefore illegal. See People
v. Fuerst, 2013 CO 28, ¶ 11. The prosecution can
overcome this presumption only by establishing that the
search falls within a recognized exception to the warrant
[¶ 16] Although the Fourth
Amendment outlaws unreasonable searches and seizures,
nothing in the text of the Fourth Amendment requires
suppression of illegally obtained evidence. Instead, the
exclusionary rule, a judicially created evidentiary rule,
gives effect to the Fourth Amendment by requiring
suppression of any evidence obtained as a direct result of an
illegal search or seizure. SeePeople v.
Kazmierski,25 P.3d 1207, 1213 (Colo. 2001); People
v. Rodriguez,945 P.2d 1351, 1363 (Colo. 1997). Whether
evidence was obtained as a direct result of an illegal search
or seizure depends on whether the evidence was obtained by
exploiting the illegality or instead by " means
sufficiently distinguishable ...