US v. Lewis, No. 16-5181 (6th Cir. 2017)-Officers went out on an intoxicated woman at a Walmart. She told them that she came to the store with her boyfriend who was in his truck in the parking lot. The officers went out to the truck to see if the boyfriend was sober and could take her home. The officers arrived at the truck and found the boyfriend asleep. One of the officers opened the vehicle door. The dome light came on and startled the boyfriend awake. He had a clear baggie on his lap. He immediately grabbed the baggie and threw it into the back floorboard. One of the officers opened the back door and looked at the baggie. It contained several pills of Oxycodone and Xanax. The boyfriend was arrested. He tried to get the evidence suppressed. The court held that the officer did not open the door with the intent to investigate a crime, but was engaged in a community caretaking function. Once the officer saw the baggie and the boyfriend’s actions, he had reason to change from the caretaking function to investigating a crime. He had probable cause to open the rear door and further examine the baggie. The search and arrest were lawful.
Morse v. Cloutier, No. 15-2043 (1st Cir. 2017)-Morse was throwing bottles and other dangerous objects at his neighbors. He also threatened to kill them. Morse returned to his home and was contacted there approximately one hour later by several police officers. They contacted him as he stood behind his locked storm door. The officers asked him to step outside. He refused. An officer took him he was under arrest. Morse told the officer he needed a warrant and shut and locked the inner door. The officers forced open the doors, entered Morse’s residence, and arrested him. Morse and his wife sued the officers for violating their civil rights for breaking into his home to arrest him without a warrant in violation of his 4th Amendment rights. The lower court and Court of Appeals denied the officers qualified immunity because the law was clearly established forbidding what they did.
US v. Cantu, No. 16-2191 (10th Cir. 2017)-Law Enforcement placed a utility pole camera near Cantu's home. They saw him outside his home carrying an assault rifle. He is a convicted felon. The agent's served a search warrant for the rifle. They found the rifle and arrested Cantu. Cantu tried to suppress the evidence because of the use of the camera. The court held that the use of a pole camera that could not see inside the home and could only see what a passerby could see was lawful.
US v. Alatorre, No. 16-4184 (8th Cir. 2017)-Officers did a high risk service of an arrest warrant for Alatorre at his home. The officers knocked and announced that they had an arrest warrant. The officers heard noises consistent with multiple people being in the residence before Alatorre came to the door. The officers arrested him and pulled him out to the porch. The officers did a protective sweep of the house and found in plain view drugs and guns. Alatorre was charged with the additional offenses. He tried to get the evidence suppressed, but was denied. He appealed. The Circuit Court held that a threat of accomplices launching a surprise attack from within the home is a valid officer safety concern. Alatorre's warrant was for assaulting someone with a baton, and he has a criminal history of carrying weapons. Finally, the officers did not know how many people were still in the home. The protective sweep was lawful as is the discovery of the drugs and guns.