427 U.S. 38 (1976), 75-19, United States v. Santana

Docket Nº:No. 75-19
Citation:427 U.S. 38, 96 S.Ct. 2406, 49 L.Ed.2d 300
Party Name:United States v. Santana
Case Date:June 24, 1976
Court:United States Supreme Court

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427 U.S. 38 (1976)

96 S.Ct. 2406, 49 L.Ed.2d 300

United States



No. 75-19

United States Supreme Court

June 24, 1976

Argued April 27, 1976




On the basis of information that respondent Santana had in her possession marked money used to make a heroin "buy" arranged by an undercover agent, police officers went to Santana's house where she was standing in the doorway holding a paper bag, but, as the officers approached, she retreated into the vestibule of her house, where they caught her. When she tried to escape, envelopes containing what was later determined to be heroin fell to the floor from the paper bag, and she was found to have been carrying some of the marked money on her person. Respondent Alejandro, who had been sitting on the front steps, was caught when he tried to make off with the dropped envelopes of heroin. After their indictment for possessing heroin with intent to distribute, respondents moved to suppress the heroin and marked money. The District Court granted the motion on the ground that, although the officers had probable cause to make the arrests, Santana's retreat into the vestibule did not justify a warrantless entry into the house on the ground of "hot pursuit." The Court of Appeals affirmed.


[96 S.Ct. 2408] 1. Santana, while standing in the doorway of her house, was in a "public place" for purposes of the Fourth Amendment, since she was not in an area where she had any expectation of privacy, and was not merely visible to the public, but was exposed to public view, speech, hearing, and touch as if she had been standing completely outside her house. Thus, when the police, who concededly had probable cause to do so, sought to arrest her, they merely intended to make a warrantless arrest in a public place upon probable [96 S.Ct. 2405] cause, and did not violate the Fourth Amendment. United States v. Watson, 423 U.S. 411 . P. 42

2. By retreating into a private place, Santana could not defeat an otherwise proper arrest that had been set in motion in a public place. Since there was a need to act quickly to prevent destruction of evidence, there was a true "hot pursuit," which need not be an extended hue and cry "in and about [the] public streets," and thus a warrantless entry to make the arrest was

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justified, Warden v. Hayden, 387 U.S. 294, as was the search incident to that arrest. Pp. 42-43.


REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 43. STEVENS, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which STEWART, J., joined, post, p. 44. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 45.

REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.


On August 16, 1974, Michael Gilletti, an undercover officer with the Philadelphia Narcotics Squad, arranged a heroin "buy" with one Patricia McCafferty (from whom he had purchased narcotics before). McCafferty told him it would cost $115 "and we will go down to Mom Santana's for the dope."

Gilletti notified his superiors of the impending transaction, recorded the serial numbers of $110 (sic) in marked bills, and went to meet McCafferty at a prearranged location. She got in his car and directed him to drive to 2311 North Fifth Street, which, as she had

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previously informed him, was respondent Santana's residence.

McCafferty took the money and went inside the house, stopping briefly to speak to respondent Alejandro who was sitting on the front steps. She came out shortly afterwards and got into the car. Gilletti asked for the heroin; she thereupon extracted from her bra several glassine envelopes containing a brownish-white powder and gave them to him.

Gilletti then stopped the car, displayed his badge, and placed McCafferty under arrest. He told her that the police were going back to 2311 North Fifth Street, and that he wanted to know where the money was. She said, "Mom has the money." At this point, Sergeant Pruitt and other officers came up to the car. Gilletti showed them the envelope and said "Mom Santana has the money." Gilletti then took McCafferty to the police station.

Pruitt and the others then drove approximately two blocks back to 2311 North Fifth Street. They saw Santana standing in the doorway of the house1 with a brown paper bag in her hand. They pulled up to within 15 feet of Santana and got out of their van, shouting "police," and displaying their identification. As the officers approached, Santana retreated into the vestibule of her house.

The officers followed through the open door, catching her in the vestibule. As she tried to pull away, the bag tilted and "two bundles of glazed paper packets with a white powder" fell to the floor. [96 S.Ct. 2409] Respondent

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Alejandro tried to make off with the dropped envelopes, but was forcibly restrained. When Santana was told to empty her pockets, she produced $135, $70 of which could be identified as Gilletti's marked money. The white powder in the bag was later determined to be heroin.

An indictment was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania charging McCafferty with distribution of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841, and respondents with possession of heroin with intent to distribute in violation of the same section. McCafferty pleaded guilty. Santana and Alejandro moved to suppress the heroin and money found during and after their...

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