Police enter home w/o reason, detain owner at gun point, take him outside, re-enter home, and search

The panel vacated a conviction and sentence for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and remanded with instructions to suppress evidence found in the defendant’s home and on his person, as well as statements he made at the police station following his arrest.

In a prior appeal, this court held that officers violated the Fourth Amendment when they entered the defendant’s home without a warrant, ostensibly to determine whether someone inside posed a threat to their safety or required emergency assistance. Though the officers knew nothing about the defendant before entering his home, they discovered him inside, detained him at gunpoint, took him outside in handcuffs, and ran a records check that revealed he was subject to a supervised release condition authorizing suspicionless searches of his residence. After discovering this condition, the same officers who had conducted the initial unlawful entry reentered the home to conduct a full search, during which they found methamphetamine and other incriminating evidence.

The panel considered whether, under the attenuation doctrine, the discovery of the suspicionless search condition was an intervening circumstance that broke the causal chain between the initial unlawful entry and the discovery of the evidence supporting the conviction. The Government conceded that the first factor, the temporal proximity
between the unconstitutional conduct and the discovery of evidence, weighs in favor of suppression. As to the second factor, intervening circumstances, the panel concluded that the officers’ discretionary decision to conduct a full investigatory search of the defendants’ home, combined with the lack of evidence for why the officers decided to avail themselves of the search condition, leads to the conclusion that the discovery of the defendant’s suspicionless search condition was not a sufficient intervening circumstance. As to the third factor, the purpose and flagrancy of the violation, the panel found particularly significant that the officers entered the defendant’s home without cause, detained him at gunpoint, and removed him from the premises in handcuffs; and concluded that whatever role the officers’ subjective good faith should play in the attenuation analysis, it is not enough to outweigh the other two factors, which both favor suppression.

Full case here: UNITED STATES V. GARCIA, https://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2020/09/10/19-10073.pdf

Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
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