613 F.3d 1295 (10th Cir. 2010), 09-3310, United States v. Martin

Docket Nº:09-3310.
Citation:613 F.3d 1295
Opinion Judge:GORSUCH, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Michael L. MARTIN, Defendant-Appellant.
Attorney:Ronald E. Wurtz, Assistant Federal Public Defender (Cyd Gilman, Federal Public Defender, with him on the briefs), Topeka, KS, for Defendant-Appellant. Jared S. Maag, Special Assistant United States Attorney (Lanny D. Welch, United States Attorney, with him on the brief), Topeka, KS, for Plaintiff...
Judge Panel:Before O'BRIEN, Circuit Judge, BRORBY, Senior Circuit Judge, and GORSUCH, Circuit Judge.
Case Date:July 30, 2010
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Page 1295

613 F.3d 1295 (10th Cir. 2010)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Michael L. MARTIN, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 09-3310.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.

July 30, 2010

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Ronald E. Wurtz, Assistant Federal Public Defender (Cyd Gilman, Federal Public Defender, with him on the briefs), Topeka, KS, for Defendant-Appellant.

Jared S. Maag, Special Assistant United States Attorney (Lanny D. Welch, United States Attorney, with him on the brief), Topeka, KS, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before O'BRIEN, Circuit Judge, BRORBY, Senior Circuit Judge, and GORSUCH, Circuit Judge.

GORSUCH, Circuit Judge.

Confronted at the entryway of his apartment building by officers who suspected him of a shooting earlier in the day, Michael Martin was arrested, searched, and found carrying a gun. Charged with being a felon unlawfully in possession of a firearm, Mr. Martin moved to suppress evidence about the weapon from his anticipated trial, claiming his seizure and subsequent search violated the Fourth Amendment. The district court denied the motion, and today we affirm. The arresting officers in this case had probable cause to arrest Mr. Martin as a suspect in the shooting, and they faced exigent circumstances sufficient to justify

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effecting that arrest inside the apartment building's entryway. Because of this, we conclude, the officers' actions complied with, not violated, the Fourth Amendment.

I

A

Reviewing the facts in the light most favorable to the government (as we must given that it prevailed before the district court, see, e.g., United States v. Colonna, 360 F.3d 1169, 1173 (10th Cir.2004)), they tell us this much. In the late afternoon of December 29, 2007, members of the Topeka, Kansas police department learned that Lawrence Medlock, Jr., had been shot in the chest. People in the vicinity of the shooting told police that the suspect was an African-American male with the street name " Kalil." Witnesses added that Kalil fled the scene on foot with the guns he had used in the shooting. Kalil was, they said, wearing a heavy winter coat, brown or gray, with fur lining. Officers running a check on the alias " Kalil" in a police database found the name Michael Johnston as a possible match. Officers also learned that this particular Michael Johnston lived in the area of the shooting and appeared to be the boyfriend of Ora Mae Hudnall. (It later came out in testimony from Ms. Hudnall's stepfather that she and Mr. Martin were married and lived together, but this the police didn't know at the time.)

The officers located a photograph of Ms. Hudnall and the address of her apartment. Two members of the Topeka police department then set out to that address, hoping to " get a statement from her and any information [they] could on-on this shooting suspect." R. Vol. II at 8. The officers arrived at Ms. Hudnall's apartment building approximately four hours after the shooting. The main entrance to the building was locked. The officers looked around to see if any lights were on in the complex, but couldn't get the attention of any resident. Moments later, they heard voices approaching the main entrance door. When the door opened, revealing an entryway or atrium, the officers saw a woman matching the photo of Ms. Hudnall accompanied by an African-American male wearing a heavy fur-lined coat. An officer asked the man's name, and he responded " Michael Martin," though one officer apparently only heard the suspect say " Michael."

As he said his name, Mr. Martin stepped further back into the atrium. One of the officers feared that the defendant was retreating, so he identified himself as a police officer and told Mr. Martin to " put his hands-turn around and put his hands on the wall behind him." R. Vol. II at 12. Mr. Martin didn't do that. Instead, Mr. Martin dropped his hands out of sight and, with his hands down, he stated, " [I] ha[ve] something on [me]." R. Vol. II at 12. Unable to see Mr. Martin's hands, and interpreting the statement that he had something on him to mean he had a gun, an officer entered the atrium to " close[ ] the distance between himself and myself." R. Vol. II at 12. Both officers then placed Mr. Martin in handcuffs. During a search of Mr. Martin, they discovered an automatic pistol and an ammunition magazine.

B

All this led to Mr. Martin's indictment in federal court under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), as a felon in possession of a firearm. (Separate state charges for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, among other things, were brought but eventually dropped.) Mr. Martin responded to the indictment with a motion to suppress. Presenting evidence that he lived in the apartment with Ms. Hudnall, Mr. Martin argued that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy,

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not just in his particular apartment, but also in the building's various common areas as part of his " home." Yet, he submitted, the officers entered one such common area (the building's entryway or atrium) and effected an arrest of him without a warrant. And this, he argued, violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

The district court disagreed. It denied the motion to suppress, holding that Mr. Martin had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the apartment building's common areas. Alternatively, even assuming Mr. Martin could have reasonably possessed such an expectation of privacy, the district court held that the motion still failed because the officers had probable cause to arrest Mr. Martin, and exigent circumstances-officer safety-justified their entry into the building and their seizure of Mr. Martin there. Mr. Martin moved for reconsideration, which the district court granted, but ultimately the court only elaborated on and confirmed its prior holding. In light of all this, Mr. Martin pled guilty to the gun charge while reserving his right to appeal the denial of his suppression motion. Mr. Martin now pursues that reserved right before us.

II

" [S]earches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable." Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 586, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 63 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980). Under the Fourth Amendment, there are " strict limits" on when law enforcement officers may reasonably (and thus lawfully) enter a home without a warrant, United States v. Walker, 474 F.3d 1249, 1252 (10th Cir.2007); exceptions to the warrant requirement in these circumstances are " few in number and carefully delineated." Welsh v. Wisconsin, 466 U.S. 740, 749, 104 S.Ct. 2091, 80 L.Ed.2d 732 (1984) (quotation marks omitted). But one well established exception, justifying warrantless entry into the home, exists when the officers have probable cause to effect an arrest and face " exigent circumstances." United States v. Reeves, 524 F.3d 1161, 1169 (10th Cir.2008). Examples of exigent circumstances include a threat to officer safety, an ongoing " hot pursuit" of a fleeing suspect, or the possible imminent destruction of evidence. Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103, 116 n. 6, 126 S.Ct. 1515, 164 L.Ed.2d 208 (2006).

None of these conditions, Mr. Martin contends, is present in his case. In his view, the apartment entryway qualifies as part of his home and the government lacked the probable cause or exigent circumstances necessary to effect a warrantless seizure of him there. For its part, the government disputes all of this. It contends that Mr. Martin did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the apartment building's common areas. Given this, the government submits, the entryway was like any other public place, and all it needed to justify Mr. Martin's arrest was probable cause, and that it had. Even if Mr. Martin did have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the apartment building's atrium, the government adds, the officers in this case faced exigent circumstances justifying their entry.

We find it unnecessary to resolve whether Mr. Martin possessed a reasonable expectation of privacy in the apartment building's atrium or entryway, as the parties variously describe it.1 Likewise, we

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need not decide whether the officers arrested Mr. Martin sufficiently close to the building's threshold that the arrest occurred in a " public place." See United States v. Santana, 427 U.S. 38, 42, 96 S.Ct. 2406, 49 L.Ed.2d 300 (1976) (threshold is a " ‘ public’ place" ); McKinnon v. Carr, 103 F.3d 934, 935 (10th Cir.1996); 3 Wayne R. LaFave, Search and Seizure § 6.1(e) at 301-04 (4th ed. 2004). And neither must we decide whether or when an officer can effect a warrantless arrest by show of force, from outside the home, of a person inside the home, without exigent circumstances. LaFave § 6.1(e) at 301-04. This is because, even assuming the entryway was part of Mr. Martin's " home," and even assuming his arrest wasn't in a public place by dint of its proximity to the threshold, by the time the officers seized Mr. Martin they had both probable cause to effect the arrest and faced exigent circumstances supporting their entry into the building.

In reaching the narrow holding we do, we proceed in three steps, asking: (a) when was Mr. Martin seized for Fourth Amendment purposes? (b) did the officers have probable cause to effect an arrest at the time of that seizure? (c) and did exigent circumstances then exist sufficient to permit the officers' intrusion into the (presumed) home? All of these are legal questions we are obliged to, and do, decide de novo, while, again, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government.

A

" [N]ot all personal intercourse between policemen and citizens involves ‘ seizures' of persons. Only when the officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has in some way restrained the liberty of a citizen may we conclude that a ‘ seizure’ has occurred." Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19 n. 16, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968). A restraint on...

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