Logan v. Com.

Decision Date02 August 2005
Docket NumberRecord No. 0852-04-3.
Citation46 Va. App. 213,616 S.E.2d 744
CourtVirginia Supreme Court
PartiesJames Gregory LOGAN v. COMMONWEALTH of Virginia.

S. Jane Chittom, Appellate Defender (Virginia Indigent Defense Commission, on briefs), for appellant.

Margaret W. Reed, Assistant Attorney General (Jerry W. Kilgore, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.



A police officer entered the rooming house where James Gregory Logan resided, saw Logan in possession of cocaine on the second floor, and arrested Logan. At a hearing on a motion to suppress the cocaine, the trial judge ruled that the officer's warrantless entry into the rooming house did not violate Logan's rights under the Fourth Amendment because Logan had no "reasonable expectation of privacy in the area in which the officer observed the [drug] transaction." Logan contends on appeal that the trial judge erred in ruling that he had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the hallway of the rooming house where he resided. We agree with Logan and reverse his conviction.


At the hearing on the motion to suppress, the Commonwealth's witness testified that James Logan resided in the rooming house on Jefferson Street in the City of Danville. It is a three story converted residence where approximately fifteen other people reside. The evidence proved the front door to the rooming house opens to a central hallway, which has rooms to each side and stairs leading to the upper two floors. The witness, Marilyn Adams, who is a resident of the rooming house, testified that a sign is posted on the front door that reads to the effect of "ring the door" or "knock to come in." Two other signs with the words "No trespassing" are on the front door and on a pole just before the stairs. Logan had lived there for two or three weeks prior to his arrest, and his bedroom was in the third floor attic.

One afternoon, Adams saw Logan walking on Jefferson Street toward the rooming house. Logan stopped and told her that he was looking for Joyce Searles because he had given her his bicycle and ten dollars to get him a "dime rock." Logan then walked away, searching for Searles. Adams testified that Searles later arrived on the bicycle and that she told Searles Logan was looking for her. As Adams stood inside the doorway to the rooming house, Logan arrived. He and Searles then entered the hallway and conversed. Adams saw a police vehicle stop in front of the house, and she said to Logan and Searles, "here come the police." Logan and Searles continued their conversation in the hallway and then went upstairs.

Adams testified that the police officer entered the rooming house without knocking or ringing the bell, said "good evening" to her, and went up the stairs. She said the officer later returned to the front door and asked if she knew "a James... [or] some other name he called." She testified that she told the officer Logan was not that person. She recalled that the name the officer inquired about was James Chappell and said the officer did not make any inquiry about Chappell when he first entered the house.

Officer Pace testified that he saw Logan near Jefferson Street and thought Logan was James Chappell. He testified, however, that he did not know either Chappell or Logan. Officer Pace had never seen Chappell, but he had a physical description of Chappell and had information that Chappell was "supposed to be hanging around" the neighborhood. He called the dispatcher to determine whether the warrant for Chappell was still outstanding and learned that it was.

Officer Pace testified he "was going to get out of his cruiser and approach [Logan] and find out if that was, in fact, [Chappell]." Before he could do so, Logan and Searles entered the rooming house. Less than five minutes after Logan and Searles went upstairs, Officer Pace entered the rooming house and said "good evening" to Adams, who was standing in the hallway inside the front doorway. Contradicting Adams, Officer Pace testified that when he first entered the house he asked Adams "who it was and she said it was James without giving a last name."

Officer Pace testified that he entered the building without knocking or ringing the doorbell. He did not see Logan in the hallway and went upstairs. Officer Pace also testified that he had been inside the rooming house before this date. He testified he saw a sign on a lamppost that read "rooms," but did not recall seeing any other signs.

While walking upstairs, Officer Pace heard a woman say "give me my piece." He then saw Logan and Searles standing at the top of the steps on the second floor. Logan had "a large ... off white rock in his ... right hand," which he dropped into Searles' left hand. When Logan and Searles saw Officer Pace, the "rock" fell to the floor. Officer Pace retrieved it and another smaller "rock" from the floor and arrested both Logan and Searles.

The trial judge found that the transaction between Logan and Searles occurred "next to a landing on a stairway, outside the individual rooms" in the rooming house. He ruled that "Logan, a resident of one of the rooms in this structure, did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area in which the officer observed the transaction." The trial judge, therefore, denied Logan's motion to suppress the evidence. At the conclusion of additional testimony from Officer Pace, the trial judge convicted Logan of possession of cocaine.


The sole issue on appeal is whether Logan "had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the stairs and hallway of the rooming house where he lived." In our review, we are bound by the trial judge's findings of historical fact unless plainly wrong or without evidence to support them. However, whether a person has an expectation of privacy within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment is a question we consider de novo on appeal. Minnesota v. Olson, 495 U.S. 91, 110 S.Ct. 1684, 109 L.Ed.2d 85 (1990). See also United States v. Ramapuram, 632 F.2d 1149, 1155 (4th Cir.1980); Sharpe v. Commonwealth, 44 Va.App. 448, 454, 605 S.E.2d 346, 349 (2004).

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated." U.S. Const. amend. IV. "It is axiomatic that the `physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed.'" Welsh v. Wisconsin, 466 U.S. 740, 748, 104 S.Ct. 2091, 2097, 80 L.Ed.2d 732 (1984) (citation omitted). Thus, a warrantless entry into a person's residence is per se unreasonable unless the government can demonstrate an exigency. Id. It follows, therefore, as "a `basic principle of Fourth Amendment law' that searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable." Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 587, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 1380, 63 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980). "`At the very core of the Fourth Amendment stands the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion.'" Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27, 31, 121 S.Ct. 2038, 2041, 150 L.Ed.2d 94 (2001) (citations omitted). This is so because "the Fourth Amendment has drawn a firm line at the entrance to the house. Absent exigent circumstances, that threshold may not reasonably be crossed without a warrant." Payton, 445 U.S. at 590, 100 S.Ct. at 1382.

As Justice Harlan's oft-quoted concurrence described it, a Fourth Amendment search occurs when the government violates a subjective expectation of privacy that society recognizes as reasonable. See Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 361, 88 S.Ct. 507, [516-17,] 19 L.Ed.2d 576 (1967). [The Court has] subsequently applied this principle to hold that a Fourth Amendment search does not occur — even when the explicitly protected location of a house is concerned — unless "the individual manifested a subjective expectation of privacy in the object of the challenged search," and "society [is] willing to recognize that expectation as reasonable." [California v. Ciraolo, 476 U.S. 207, 211, 106 S.Ct. 1809, 1811, 90 L.Ed.2d 210 (1986)].

Kyllo, 533 U.S. at 33, 121 S.Ct. at 2042-43.

"The proponent of a motion to suppress has the burden of establishing that his own Fourth Amendment rights were violated by the challenged search or seizure." Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 131 n. 1, 99 S.Ct. 421, 424 n. 1, 58 L.Ed.2d 387 (1978). The Supreme Court long ago implicitly noted, however, that society would recognize a rooming house resident's expectation of privacy in his room and in the hallways of his rooming house as an area deserving the highest Fourth Amendment protection. See McDonald v. United States, 335 U.S. 451, 456, 69 S.Ct. 191, 193-94, 93 L.Ed. 153 (1948). In McDonald, the Supreme Court reversed a denial of a suppression motion where officers, without a warrant, climbed through the landlady's window in a rooming house and went to a hallway where they saw the defendant in his room engaged in an unlawful activity. 335 U.S. at 452-53, 69 S.Ct. at 191-92. As Justice Jackson emphasized in his concurring opinion, "each tenant of a building, while he has no right to exclude from the common hallways those who enter lawfully, does have a personal and constitutionally protected interest in the integrity and security of the entire building against unlawful breaking and entry." Id. at 458, 69 S.Ct. at 194-95 (Jackson, J., concurring).

For residents of a rooming house, the dwelling is their home. "The mere fact that certain rooms traditionally associated with a home are shared by rooming house residents does not render the structure any less a home to those residents." State v. Titus, 707 So.2d 706, 708 (Fla.1998). Thus, while a rooming house is open to its residents, unless evidence proves otherwise, a rooming house is not by its essential...

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6 cases
  • State v. Williams
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court — Appellate Division
    • August 19, 2019
    ...(Fla. 1998) (concluding residents of a rooming house had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the common areas); Logan v. Commonwealth, 46 Va.App. 213, 616 S.E.2d 744, on reh'g en banc, 47 Va.App. 168, 622 S.E.2d 771 (2005) (government conceded rooming house was not open to the public). W......
  • Commonwealth v. Shorter
    • United States
    • Circuit Court of Virginia
    • July 27, 2016
    ...is directed." Welsh v. Wisconsin, 466 U.S. 740, 748 (1984) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Logan v. Commonwealth, 46 Va. App. 213, 221, 616 S.E.2d 744, 747-48 (2005) ("The concept of home is so sacrosanct that 'with few exceptions, the question whether a warrantless search of a......
  • State v. Smith
    • United States
    • New Hampshire Supreme Court
    • January 31, 2017
    ...knock on the exterior door rather than proceed directly to the room of the person whom they came to visit. Cf. Logan v. Com., 46 Va.App. 213, 616 S.E.2d 744, 748 (2005) (finding that the common hallway in a rooming house was not open to the general public when the front entrance had a door,......
  • Commonwealth v. Hackett, Record No. 2594-07-2 (Va. App. 3/11/2008), Record No. 2594-07-2.
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals
    • March 11, 2008
    ...193, 198, 487 S.E.2d 259, 261 (1997) (en banc))), aff'd, 273 Va. 26, 44, 639 S.E.2d 217, 227 (2007); see Logan v. Commonwealth, 46 Va. App. 213, 219, 616 S.E.2d 744, 747 (2005) (holding ultimate conclusion regarding whether reasonable expectation of privacy exists is reviewed de novo). At a......
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