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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > November 2012 > United States v. Snard — Third Circuit Court of Appeals (Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania), Sept.

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United States v. Snard — Third Circuit Court of Appeals (Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania), Sept. 21, 2012

Question: Was a search under box springs and a mattress permissible under the protective sweep doctrine?

Quick Answer: Yes, a protective sweep can extend to looking under a mattress because it is a common hiding place.

Facts: Police received a tip that a wanted man who went by the names “Timothy Snard” and “Victor Brewington” could be found at a nearby hotel. The informant disclosed Snard’s date of birth and said he had a gun and drugs. The police discovered an outstanding warrant and physical description for Victor Brewington, aka Timothy Snard, whose birthday matched the date provided by the informant. Police officers responded and identified themselves as police. Snard asked the police for whom they were looking, and the police responded “Timothy Snard.” After a moment, Snard opened the door and identified himself as “Victor Brennington.” Because Snard’s appearance was consistent with the database’s description, the police placed Snard under arrest. The officers then began a protective sweep of the hotel room. They patted the bed and checked the bathroom and closet. One officer lifted the mattress and box springs to see if anyone was under the bed. As the mattress was raised, a firearm, crack cocaine, and a bag of marijuana fell to the floor.

Why this case is important: When Snard opened his door for the police, they immediately placed him under arrest. He then chose to walk back into the hotel room to dress. The officers followed him inside and did a protective sweep of the premises to ensure officer safety. They looked in closets and other spaces immediately adjoining the place of arrest that an assailant could hide in; it was not a full search of the premises and extended only to a cursory inspection of those spaces where a person could hide.

Keep in mind: Officers’ beliefs and actions are evaluated using an objective reasonableness test. Although, in hindsight, it appears unlikely that someone was under the bed because of the type of platform frame, the officers’ belief that someone could have been under the bed was objectively reasonable. Police must act quickly and decisively to minimize the risk of ambush.

Visit the Third Circuit Court of Appeals website to read the entire opinion.