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Amdt4.5.6 Other Considerations When Executing a Warrant

Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Because police actions in execution of a warrant must be related to the objectives of the authorized intrusion, and because privacy of the home lies at the core of the Fourth Amendment, police officers violate the Amendment by bringing members of the media or other third parties into a home during execution of a warrant if presence of those persons was not in aid of execution of the warrant.1

In executing a warrant for a search of premises and of named persons on the premises, police officers may not automatically search someone else found on the premises.2 If they can articulate some reasonable basis for fearing for their safety they may conduct a “patdown” of the person, but in order to search they must have probable cause particularized with respect to that person. However, in Michigan v. Summers,3 the Court held that officers arriving to execute a warrant for the search of a house could detain, without being required to articulate any reasonable basis and necessarily therefore without probable cause, the owner or occupant of the house, whom they encountered on the front porch leaving the premises. The Court determined that such a detention, which was “substantially less intrusive” than an arrest, was justified because of the law enforcement interests in minimizing the risk of harm to officers, facilitating entry and conduct of the search, and preventing flight in the event incriminating evidence is found.4 For the same reasons, officers may use “reasonable force,” including handcuffs, to effectuate a detention.5 Also, under some circumstances, officers may search premises on the mistaken but reasonable belief that the premises are described in an otherwise valid warrant.6

Limits on detention incident to a search were addressed in Bailey v. United States, a case in which an occupant exited his residence and traveled some distance before being stopped and detained.7 The Bailey Court held that the detention was not constitutionally sustainable under the rule announced in Summers.8 According to the Court, application of the categorical exception to probable cause requirements for detention incident to a search is determined by spatial proximity, that is, whether the occupant is found “within the immediate vicinity of the premises to be searched,” 9 and not by temporal proximity, that is, whether the occupant is detained “as soon as reasonably practicable” consistent with safety and security. In so holding, the Court reasoned that limiting the Summers rule to the area within which an occupant poses a real threat ensures that the scope of the rule regarding detention incident to a search is confined to its underlying justification.10

Although, for purposes of execution, as for many other matters, there is little difference between search warrants and arrest warrants, one notable difference is that the possession of a valid arrest warrant cannot authorize authorities to enter the home of a third party looking for the person named in the warrant; in order to do that, they need a search warrant signifying that a magistrate has determined that there is probable cause to believe the person named is on the premises.11

Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603 (1999). Accord, Hanlon v. Berger, 526 U.S. 808 (1999) (media camera crew “ride-along” with Fish and Wildlife Service agents executing a warrant to search respondent’s ranch for evidence of illegal taking of wildlife). back
Ybarra v. Illinois, 444 U.S. 85 (1979) (patron in a bar), relying on and reaffirming United States v. Di Re, 332 U.S. 581 (1948) (occupant of vehicle may not be searched merely because there are grounds to search the automobile). But see Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366 (2003) (distinguishing Ybarra on basis that passengers in car often have “common enterprise,” and noting that the tip in Di Re implicated only the driver). back
452 U.S. 692 (1981). back
452 U.S. at 701–06. Ybarra was distinguished on the basis of its greater intrusiveness and the lack of sufficient connection with the premises. Id. at 695 n.4. By the time Summers was searched, police had probable cause to do so. Id. at 695. The warrant here was for contraband, id. at 701, and a different rule may apply with respect to warrants for other evidence, id. at 705 n.20. In Los Angeles County v. Rettele, 550 U.S. 609 (2007), the Court found no Fourth Amendment violation where deputies did not know that the suspects had sold the house that the deputies had a warrant to search. The deputies entered the house and found the new owners, of a different race from the suspects, sleeping in the nude. The deputies held the new owners at gunpoint for one to two minutes without allowing them to dress or cover themselves. As for the difference in race, the Court noted that, “[w]hen the deputies ordered white respondents from their bed, they had no way of knowing whether the African-American suspects were elsewhere in the house.” Id. at 613. As for not allowing the new owners to dress or cover themselves, the Court quoted its statement in Michigan v. Summers that “[t]he risk of harm to both the police and the occupants is minimized if the officers routinely exercise unquestioned command of the situation.” Id. at 615 (quoting 452 U.S. at 702–03). back
Muehler v. Mena, 544 U.S. 93, 98–99 (2005) (also upholding questioning the handcuffed detainee about her immigration status). back
Maryland v. Garrison, 480 U.S. 79 (1987) (officers reasonably believed there was only one “third floor apartment” in city row house when in fact there were two). back
568 U.S. 186 (2013). In Bailey, the police obtained a warrant to search Bailey’s residence for firearms and drugs Id. at 190. Meanwhile, detectives staked out the residence, saw Bailey leave and drive away, and then called in a search team. Id. While the search was proceeding, the detectives tailed Bailey for about a mile before stopping and detaining him. Id. at 190–92. back
As an alternative ground, the district court had found that stopping Bailey was lawful as an investigatory stop under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20 (1968), but the Supreme Court offered no opinion on whether, assuming the stop was valid under Terry, the resulting interaction between law enforcement and Bailey could independently have justified Bailey’s detention. Bailey, 568 U.S. at 202. back
Bailey, 568 U.S. at 202–04. back
Id. at 202. back
Steagald v. United States, 451 U.S. 204 (1981). An arrest warrant is a necessary and sufficient authority to enter a suspect’s home to arrest him. Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573 (1980). back