Valid arrest warrant. Person is arrested in his home. Can police still look around the house?

On February 3, 1986, two men robbed a Godfather’s Pizza in Prince George’s County, Maryland. One of the men was wearing a red running suit. Later that day, the police obtained warrants for the arrest of Jerome Edward Buie and Lloyd Allen and put Buie’s house under surveillance. On February 5, the police arrested Buie in his house. Police found him hiding in the basement. Once Buie emerged and was handcuffed, an officer went down to determine if there was anyone else hiding. While in the basement, the officer saw a red running suit in plain view and seized it as evidence.

QUESTION: Does the Fourth Amendment prevent police officers from making a “protective sweep” at the site of an in-home arrest if they do not believe themselves or others to be in immediate danger? And where can they search? Even after the arrest is complete?

The Court held that the potential risk to police officers of another person on the arrest site must be weighed against the invasion of privacy. Because there is a risk of an ambush when executing an arrest warrant at someone’s home, this risk justified the protective sweep. Protective sweep is a cursory look and not a full-blown search for evidence. Police can only search where a person can actually hide.

Full opinion here: Maryland v. Buie, 494 U.S. 325 (1990)

Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
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