494 U.S. 325 (1990), 88-1369, Maryland v. Buie

Docket Nº:No. 88-1369
Citation:494 U.S. 325, 110 S.Ct. 1093, 108 L.Ed.2d 276, 58 U.S.L.W. 4281
Party Name:Maryland v. Buie
Case Date:February 28, 1990
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 325

494 U.S. 325 (1990)

110 S.Ct. 1093, 108 L.Ed.2d 276, 58 U.S.L.W. 4281

Maryland

v.

Buie

No. 88-1369

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 28, 1990

Argued Dec. 4, 1989

CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF MARYLAND

Syllabus

Following a Maryland armed robbery by two men, one of whom was wearing a red running suit, police obtained arrest warrants for respondent Buie and his suspected accomplice and executed the warrant for Buie at his house. After Buie was arrested upon emerging from the basement, one of the officers entered the basement "in case there was someone else" there and seized a red running suit lying in plain view. The trial court denied Buie's motion to suppress the running suit, the suit was introduced into evidence, and Buie was convicted of armed robbery and a weapons offense. The intermediate appellate court affirmed the denial of the suppression motion, but the State Court of Appeals reversed, ruling that the running suit was inadmissible because the officer who conducted the "protective sweep" of the basement did not have probable cause to believe that a serious and demonstrable potentiality for danger existed.

Held: The Fourth Amendment permits a properly limited protective sweep in conjunction with an in-home arrest when the searching officer possesses a reasonable belief based on specific and articulable

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facts that the area to be swept harbors an individual posing a danger to those on the arrest scene. Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032, 1049-1050; Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21. Pp. 330-337.

(a) In holding that, respectively, an on-the-street "frisk" and a roadside search of an automobile's passenger compartment were reasonable despite the absence of a warrant [110 S.Ct. 1094] or probable cause, Terry and Long balanced the Fourth Amendment interests of the persons with whom they were dealing against the immediate interests of the police in protecting themselves from the danger posed by hidden weapons. Here, the police had an analogous interest in taking steps to assure themselves that Buie's house was not harboring other person's who were dangerous and who could unexpectedly launch an attack, and the fact that Buie had an expectation of privacy in rooms that were not examined by the police prior to the arrest does not mean that such rooms were immune from entry. No warrant was required, and as an incident to the arrest the officers could, as a precautionary matter and without probable cause or reasonable suspicion, look in closets and other spaces immediately adjoining the place of arrest from which an attack could be launched. Beyond that, however, just as in Terry and Long, there must be articulable facts which, taken together with the rational inferences from those facts, would warrant a reasonably prudent officer in believing that the area to be swept harbors an individual posing a danger. Such a protective sweep is not a full search of the premises, but may extend only to a cursory inspection of those spaces where a person may be found. The sweep lasts no longer than is necessary to dispel the reasonable suspicion of danger and in any event no longer than it takes to complete the arrest and depart the premises. Pp. 331-336.

(b) Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 -- which held that, in the absence of a search warrant, the justifiable search incident to an in-home arrest could not extend beyond the arrestee's person and the area from within which he might have obtained a weapon -- is distinguished. First, Chimel was concerned with a full-blown, top-to-bottom search of an entire house for evidence of the crime for which the arrest was made, not the more limited intrusion contemplated by a protective sweep. Second, the justification for the search incident to arrest in Chimel was the threat posed by the arrestee, not the safety threat posed by the house, or more properly by unseen third parties in the house. P. 336.

(c) The Court of Appeals applied an unnecessarily strict Fourth Amendment standard in requiring a protective sweep to be justified by probable cause. The case is remanded for application of the proper standard. Pp. 336-337.

314 Md. 151, 550 A.2d 79, vacated and remanded.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and BLACKMUN, STEVENS, O'CONNOR, SCALIA, and KENNEDY, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., post, p. 337, and KENNEDY, J., post, p. 339, filed concurring opinions. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 339.

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WHITE, J., lead opinion

Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

A "protective sweep" is a quick and limited search of a premises, incident to an arrest and conducted to protect the safety of police officers or others. It is narrowly confined to a cursory visual inspection of those places in which a person might be hiding. In this case we must decide what level of justification is required by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments before police officers, while effecting the arrest of a suspect in his home pursuant to an arrest warrant, may conduct a warrantless protective sweep of all or part of the premises. The Court of Appeals of Maryland held that a running suit seized in plain view during such a protective sweep should have been suppressed at respondent's armed robbery trial because the officer who conducted the sweep did not have probable [110 S.Ct. 1095] cause to believe that a serious and demonstrable potentiality for danger existed. 314 Md. 151, 166, 550 A.2d 79, 86 (1988). We conclude that the Fourth Amendment would permit the protective sweep undertaken here if the searching officer

possesse[d] a reasonable belief based on "specific and articulable facts which, taken together with the rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant[ed]" the officer in believing,

Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032, 1049-1050 (1983) (quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21 (1968)), that the area swept harbored an individual posing a danger to the officer or others. We accordingly

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vacate the judgment below and remand for application of this standard.

I

On February 3, 1986, two men committed an armed robbery of a Godfather's Pizza restaurant in Prince George's County, Maryland. One of the robbers was wearing a red running suit. That same day, Prince George's County police obtained arrest warrants for respondent Jerome Edward Buie and his suspected accomplice in the robbery, Lloyd Allen. Buie's house was placed under police surveillance.

On February 5, the police executed the arrest warrant for Buie. They first had a police department secretary telephone Buie's house to verify that he was home. The secretary spoke to a female first, then to Buie himself. Six or seven officers proceeded to Buie's house. Once inside, the officers fanned out through the first and second floors. Corporal James Rozar announced that he would "freeze" the basement so that no one could come up and surprise the officers. With his service revolver drawn, Rozar twice shouted into the basement, ordering anyone down there to come out. When a voice asked who was calling, Rozar announced three times: "this is the police, show me your hands." App. 5. Eventually, a pair of hands appeared around the bottom of the stairwell and Buie emerged from the basement. He was arrested, searched, and handcuffed by Rozar. Thereafter, Detective Joseph Frolich entered the basement "in case there was someone else" down there. Id. at 14. He noticed a red running suit lying in plain view on a stack of clothing and seized it.

The trial court denied Buie's motion to suppress the running suit, stating in part:

The man comes out from a basement, the police don't know how many other people are down there. He is charged with a serious offense.

Id. at 19. The State introduced the running suit into evidence at Buie's trial. A jury convicted Buie of robbery with a deadly weapon and using a handgun in the commission of a felony.

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The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland affirmed the trial court's denial of the suppression motion. The court stated that Detective Frolich did not go into the basement to search for evidence, but to look for the suspected accomplice or anyone else who might pose a threat to the officers on the scene. 72 Md.App. 562, 571-572, 531 A.2d 1290, 1295 (1987).

Traditionally, the sanctity of a person's home -- his castle -- requires that the police may not invade it without a warrant except under the most exigent of circumstances. But once the police are lawfully within the home, their conduct is measured by a standard of reasonableness. . . . [I]f there is reason to believe that the arrestee had accomplices who are still at large, something less than probable cause -- reasonable suspicion -- should be sufficient to justify a limited additional intrusion to investigate the possibility of their presence.

Id. at 575-576, 531 A.2d at 1297 (emphasis in original).

The Court of Appeals of Maryland reversed by a 4 to 3 vote. 314 Md. 151, 550 A.2d 79 (1988). The court acknowledged that

when the intrusion is slight, as in the case of a brief stop and frisk on a public street, and the public interest in prevention of crime is [110 S.Ct. 1096] substantial, reasonable articulable suspicion may be enough to pass constitutional muster . . . .

id. at 159, 550 A.2d at 83. The court, however, stated that when the sanctity of the home is involved, the exceptions to the warrant requirement are few, and held: "[T]o justify a protective sweep of a home, the government must show that there is probable cause to believe that `"a serious and demonstrable potentiality for danger"' exists." Id. at 159-160, 550 A.2d at 83 (citation omitted). The court went on to find that the State had not satisfied that probable-cause requirement. Id. at 165-166, 550 A.2d at 86. We granted certiorari, 490 U.S. 1097 (1989).

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II

It is not disputed that until...

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