Monday, March 10, 2014

MBE Fast Fact: Arrests

An interesting issue that comes up in Criminal Procedure questions involves the police following the defendant into his home after an arrest, and then seizing evidence found in the home using as the rationale an exception to the warrant requirement such as the Plain View Doctrine. The twist here is that generally the police need a warrant to enter the home, and so if the police are not in the home legally, then the Plain View Doctrine does not apply, and any evidence seized as a result of the illegal entry could be suppressed at trial.

But the result is otherwise. It is well established that the police may accompany the defendant into the home following his arrest so that the defendant may obtain identification, retrieve his belongings, etc. Once inside the home, certain safety precautions can be employed by the police. So, for example, if the defendant after his arrest is accompanied by an officer and the officer looks in the closet prior to allowing the defendant to retrieve clothing, the Plain View Doctrine will apply if the officer then views evidence of a crime. The evidence is admissible even though the officer did not have a warrant to enter the home.

There are important limitations here, however. The officer would not have reasonable grounds for doing a protective sweep (ie., looking throughout) the entire home unless the officer had reasonable and articulable suspicion that accomplices were hiding throughout the home and might pose a danger.

The Fourth Amendment is all about balancing the rights of the accused with the need for effective law enforcement. The questions can get very tricky but, as always, learn from each question the relevant rule of law, as you can be sure it'll be tested again.

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