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Homes & Property

Home: A person's place of residence. It is the most sacred place under the law in regards to Search and Seizure.

Click on the case titles to link to the full case decision.

Johnson v. United States, 333 U. S. 10, 333 U. S. 13-14 (1948)-Inconvenience to the police officers is no excuse for circumventing the Constitutional requirements of the Fourth Amendment. There were also no exigent circumstances in this case. Therefore, the officers should have obtained a search warrant.

US v. Jeffers, 342 U.S. 48 (1951)-Occupants of a hotel room have an expectation of privacy. An officer cannot freely enter and search a hotel room for contraband or evidence, nor can hotel staff grant permission for the police to enter and search the occupied room. The officer must follow the same procedures as if the room was a residence (i.e. obtain a search warrant, get consent, or have exigent circumstances). The court also added that a person has no right to have contraband, even if illegally seized, returned to him.

Camara v. Municipal Court, 387 U.S. 523 (1967)-Administative inspections by Municipal Fire, Health, Home Inspection, or other similar agencies require a search warrant if the occupant of a residence refuses to allow the inspection.

Shipley v. California, 395 U.S. 818 (1969)-The police cannot do a search incident to arrest of the suspect's home if the suspect is arrested outside the residence.

US v. Robinson, 430 F.2d 1141 (6th Cir. 1970)-A person has no expectation of privacy in a home, hotel room, vehicle, etc. if he abandoned it. The police have a heavy burden of proof in establishing that the person abandoned the property. The mere fact that the defendant was arrested and imprisoned did not meet the burden of whether he intended to abandon the property.

Michigan v. Tyler, 436 US 499 (1978)-"A burning building clearly presents an exigency of sufficient proportions to render a warrantless entry "reasonable," and, once in the building to extinguish a blaze, and for a reasonable time thereafter, firefighters may seize evidence of arson that is in plain view and investigate the causes of the fire."

Michigan v. Clifford, 464 US 287 (1984)-A person does not lose his expectation of privacy in his home when the home is destroyed by fire. The initial entry into the home to extinguish the fire and contemporaneous investigation into the cause of the fire is justified as an exigency of the fire, (Michigan v. Tyler). The fire marshal started his investigation several hours after the fire was extinguished. This break in time and lack of exigency meant the marshal was required to gain consent or a warrant to enter the premises to investigate the cause of the fire.

Payton v. New York, 445 US 573 (1980)-A warrant based on probable cause is required to arrest a felon inside a private home. The only exception is under exigent circumstances.

Steagald v. U.S. 451 US 204 (1981)-Absent a consent or exigent circumstances, a search warrant is needed to arrest someone from the home of a third party.

Illinois v. Andreas, 463 U.S. 765 (1983)-"If an inspection by police does not intrude upon a legitimate expectation of privacy, there is no "search" subject to the Warrant Clause. No protected privacy interest remains in contraband in a container once government officers lawfully (as here) have opened that container and identified its contents as illegal. The simple act of resealing the container to enable the police to make a controlled delivery does not operate to revive or restore the lawfully invaded privacy rights, and the subsequent reopening of the container is not a "search" within the intendment of the Fourth Amendment." It is irrelevant that the container leaves the control or view of the police for a brief period. The warrantless seizure is permissible. In this case the defendant took possession for about 35 minutes. He left his home and he and the container were seized. The container was lawfully re-opened without a warrant. The time period is governed by whether there is a "substantial Likelihood" that the contents of the container changed during the surveillance gap.

Bledsoe v. Garcia, 742 F. 2d 1237 (10th Cir. 1984)-Bledsoe was contacted in front of his parents' house by police. The officer also asked him if he was AWOL. Bledsoe admitted that he knew he was. The officer told him that he was being arrested. Bledsoe asked and was granted permission to enter his home to tell his parents. The parents refused to let him go with the police and interferred with the police when they entered to arrest Bledsoe. The court held that AWOL was a serious offense justifying the entry of the home and search for Bledsoe.

Minnesota v. Olson, 495 US 91 (1990)-The overnight guest at another's dwelling does have an expectation of privacy. The Steagald case applies. Olson was the driver of the getaway car used in a robbery and murder. He took refuge at a friend's house. The police entered the residence without a warrant and arrested him. He was questioned and made some admissions. The arrest was ruled to be illegal. The admissions were excluded.

Minnesota v. Carter, 525 US 83 (1998)-Defendants had no Fourth Amendment Protection. Even though they were observed in illegal activity through a crack in the blind of a private home, they had no expectation of privacy. Respondents were obviously not overnight guests, but were essentially present for a business transaction and were only in the home for a matter of hours. There was nothing to suggest that they had a previous relationship with the owner or that there was any other purpose to their visit. While the apartment was a dwelling place for the occupant, for the defendants, it was simply a place to do business.

Flippo v. West Virginia, 528 US 11(1999)-The search of a murder scene without a warrant caused problems in court. There is not a general "murder exception" to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment. The constitutionally mandated rules of search and seizure do not generally change based upon the seriousness of the offense. In crimes where the suspect may have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the scene, officers must be ever mindful of the warrant requirement.

Wilson v. Layne, 000 US 98-83 (1999)-The Fourth Amendment rights of homeowners are violated when police bring members of the media or other third parties into their home during the execution of a warrant. The third parties presence in the home was not to aid in the execution of the warrant for it to be a violation, however.

US v. Gay, 451 US 204 (10th Cir, 2001)-A police officer only needs to reasonably believe that a person lives at a particular residence at the time of entry to arrest on a warrant.

Illinois v. McArthur, 531 U.S. 326 (2001)-A police officer's two-hour restraint of a home owner while a search warrant was being obtained was reasonable. The court noted that the officer had probable cause to believe there was evidence of a crime and reasonably believed that the evidence would be destroyed if the resident was left alone. Further, the police made a diligent effort to obtain the warrant as quickly as possible.

Kyllo v. US, 000 US 99-8508(2001)-The government use of a thermal imaging device, a device not in general public use, to explore details of a private home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, is a Fourth Amendment "search," and is unreasonable without a warrant.

US v. Knights, 000 US 00-1260 (2001)-Knights was sentenced to probation for a drug offense. A condition of his probation included that he submit to search at anytime, with or without a search or arrest warrant or reasonable cause, by any probation or law enforcement officer. A sheriff's detective searched Knights' apartment based on reasonable suspicion. He found evidence of crime for which Knight was indicted. The search was reasonable because Knight had a diminished expectation of privacy.

Gonzales v. Raich, 000 U.S. 03-1454 (2005)-The Federal Government has the authority to prevent states from legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Coffin v. Brandau, 642 F.3d 999 (11th Cir. 2011)-Police are not permitted to enter into someone's garage when that person is closing it to maintain his/her privacy. In this case the homeowner pushed the button to close the powered garage door. The officer put his foot in the electric safety beam by the door to prevent the door from closing. The officer entered the garage. This violated the owner's 4th Amendment rights.

United States v. Creighton, 639 F.3d 1281 (10th Cir. 2011)-"Although a motel guest does have a legitimate expectation of privacy in his room, United States v. Gordon, 168 F.3d 1222, 1225–26 (10th Cir. 1999), that expectation of privacy is lost when the rental period for the room expires. United States v. Croft, 429 F.2d 884, 887 (10th Cir. 1970); . . . . “Since after the rental period expires a guest has no right of privacy, there can be no invasion thereof.” Croft, 429 F.2d at 887."

Mascorro v. Billings, 10-7005 (10th Cir. 2011)-A police officer saw a known juvenile pass him at night without functioning taillights. The officer turned to stop the vehicle. The driver drove two blocks to his home and ran inside before the officer could catch and stop him. The officer forced his way in against the consent of the parents pepper spraying them in the process. The juvenile was found and arrested in the bathroom. The Court held that an officer must have:

  1. A serious offense, and
  2. An exigent circumstance

Both of these must occur before an officer can enter a home and make an arrest without a warrant. In this case, a minor traffic offense was not serious and did not justify the warrantless entry and arrest. A serious offense can be either a felony or misdemeanor. Either one, however, must have a very strong justification. A DUI charge does not meet the criteria, see Welch v. Wisonsin, but AWOL does see Bledsoe v. Garcia.

US v. Wells, 11-5162 (10th Cir. 2011)-Tulsa police officers were suspected of stealing from drug dealers. A sting operation was set up where the officers were told of a drug dealer with a lot of cash take was staying in a motel. An undercover officer posing as the dealer rented the room and intalled surveillance equipment. The officers contacted the dealer and obtained consent to search. The officers entered the room without the dealer and stole several thousand dollars. The officers were arrested. They fought to suppress the recordings claiming that they had an expectation of privacy. The Court held that the officers were not invited guests, but merely legally in the room. They had no expectation of privacy. The recordings were admissible.

US v. Nora, No. 12-50485 (9th Cir 2014)-Officers saw Nora standing on the sidewalk by his house. As they approached him he had moved to his porch. The officers saw a handgun in his hand. He entered his house and shut the door. The officers called for backup. Over twenty officers surrounded his house and a helicopter watched from above. The officers ordered him out of the house at gunpoint. They arrested him for the misdemeanor offense of carrying a firearm in public. The officers did not know Nora or that he had a felony conviction at the time of arrest. They searched him and found drugs. They questioned him. He admitted to more drugs being in the house. The officers got a warrant and searched his house. They found distribution quantity of cocaine, methamphetamine, and numerous firearms in the house. The Court held that Nora was unlawfully arrested out of his house in violation of Payton v. New York. It was a minor offense and there were no exigent circumstances justifying the warrantless arrest from his home. The drugs found on him and his statement were excluded. The officers did not name specifically in the search warrant that they were looking for the pistol they saw Nora with. The search warrant only mentioned any firearm. The Court invalidated the entire search warrant.

Moore v. Pederson, No. 14-14201 (11th Cir 2015)-Under the Fourth Amendment, the home is a sacrosanct place that enjoys special protection from government intrusion. The government may not enter a person’s home to effect an arrest without a warrant, or probable cause plus either consent or exigent circumstances.

US v. Thompson, No. 15-2008 (7th Cir. 2016)-The court held that an informant for the police, when invited into a home, can secretly video record the interior of the home.

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.