State v. Milashoski

In State v. Milashoski, 159 Wis. 2d 99, 464 N.W.2d 21 (Ct. App. 1990), firefighters removed what appeared to be laboratory equipment and combustible chemicals from the basement of Milashoski's home following an explosion and a fire. See Milashoski, 159 Wis. 2d at 105. The equipment and chemicals were initially transferred to the fire station but were eventually shipped to the state crime laboratory where their contents were analyzed. See Milashoski, 159 Wis. 2d at 105-06. One of the liquids contained concentrations of two controlled substances. See Milashoski, 159 Wis. 2d at 106. Milashoski was then charged with manufacturing a controlled substance. See Milashoski, 159 Wis. 2d at 104. Because the firefighters did not have a warrant to search the basement, Milashoski moved to suppress the physical evidence against him. See Milashoski, 159 Wis. 2d at 106. The trial court denied the motion and Milashoski was convicted. See id. The Court affirmed the conviction, stating that "even if, arguendo, ... fire officials were motivated by safety concerns and a desire to conduct a criminal investigation, the safety concerns presented were sufficient in and of themselves to immunize the seizure, and any investigatory motives immaterial to such a result." Milashoski, 159 Wis. 2d at 113. The Court was not convinced that the firefighters' concurrent suspicion of criminal activity deprived them of their ability to pursue their "render safe" activities. See Milashoski, 159 Wis. 2d at 118. Although the equipment and chemicals were suspected as evidence of criminal activity, they were also independently believed to be volatile and harmful to health. See id. The Court concluded that even if the fire officials had criminal investigation on their minds, this did not neutralize the genuineness of their "render safe" concerns. See id.