The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bailey v. United States
clarifies that law enforcement officers’ ability to detain a home’s recent occupant during a search depends largely on the distance the occupant is from the residence.
To permit a warrantless detention, the court said an occupant must be within the “immediate vicinity” of the residence to be searched. The court didn’t provide a definition of “immediate vicinity,” but noted that factors such as the lawful limits of the premises (property boundaries), whether the occupant is within sight of the premises, and the ease of re-entry from the occupant’s location offer guidance.
In this case, officers obtained a search warrant to look for weapons in an apartment because a confidential informant reported seeing a gun there during a drug buy. Two officers watched as two men matching the occupant’s description left the residence and drove away. They radioed fellow officers to begin a search and followed the car almost a mile before making a traffic stop.
One of the men, Chunon Bailey, was arrested on three federal charges after a gun and drugs were found in the apartment. He moved to suppress the evidence and statements he made based on unreasonable seizure.
The Supreme Court determined that the detention violated the Fourth Amendment.
In Michigan v. Summers
, the court held that law enforcement may detain occupants of a residence without a warrant or any level of suspicion if the detention is based on officer safety, aiding the completion of the search, or preventing flight. Here, the court ruled police couldn’t justify detaining Bailey based on Summers
and chose not to extend the Summers
However, since the occupant of a premises also may be a suspect, officers may be able to justify a detention under Terry v. Ohio
if they have reasonable suspicion to make the stop.
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