People v. Garvin

Decision Date24 October 2017
Citation66 N.Y.S.3d 161,88 N.E.3d 319,30 N.Y.3d 174
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Sean GARVIN, Appellant.
CourtNew York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

Lynn W.L. Fahey, Appellate Advocates, New York City (Tammy E. Linn of counsel), for appellant.

Richard A. Brown, District Attorney, Kew Gardens (Danielle S. Fenn, John M. Castellano and Joseph N. Ferdenzi of counsel), for respondent.

Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, New York City (Mark G. Matuschak and Tiffany E. Payne of counsel), Lindsay A. Lewis, Amicus Curiae Committee of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, New York City and Richard D. Willstatter, Amicus Curiae Committee of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, White Plains, for National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and another, amici curiae.

OPINION OF THE COURT

STEIN, J.

In this case, we are asked to overrule our prior decisions holding that a warrantless arrest of a suspect in the threshold of a residence is permissible under the Fourth Amendment, provided that the suspect has voluntarily answered the door and the police have not crossed the threshold. We decline to do so, and now reaffirm our long-standing rule.

I.

Defendant was convicted of four counts of third-degree robbery and one count of attempted third-degree robbery in connection with a string of bank robberies. He was arrested without a warrant inside the doorway of his home on the same day that police obtained a match for his fingerprint on a demand note used during one of the robberies. The arresting officer testified that he was instructed by a detective to go to defendant's residence to arrest him. Upon arriving there, three officers in plain clothes walked to the top of an interior staircase in the two-family house, while two detectives went to the rear of the building. One of the officers knocked on the apartment door, which was opened by another person in the residence. The officer did not know whether defendant lived on the first or the second floor and, because she did not recognize defendant when he appeared in the doorway, the officer asked if his girlfriend lived there.1 AFTER DEFENDANT STated that his girlfriend was not there and closed the door, the officers walked down the stairs, and the arresting officer announced that he had recognized defendant from a photograph. The officers then returned to the apartment door.

The arresting officer knocked on the door, and defendant opened it. While defendant was standing in the doorway of his apartment, the officer told him that he was under arrest and, when defendant turned around and put his hands behind his back, the officer handcuffed him. The officer did not enter defendant's apartment—he placed the handcuffs on defendant as defendant stood in the doorway. Defendant was transported to the precinct, where he waived his Miranda rights, agreed to speak with the detectives, and initially denied involvement in the robberies. After the investigating detective informed defendant that both his and his girlfriend's fingerprints were found on demand notes recovered from the locations of the robberies, defendant confessed.

At his subsequent suppression hearing, defendant argued that the police violated Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 63 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980) by entering his home without consent or a warrant; he maintained that there was an absence of exigent circumstances once police had surrounded the home so that he could not leave. He further asserted that the police did not wait for him to exit the premises before he was arrested, and that the police had ample time to obtain an arrest warrant, but did not do so because they wanted to question him without counsel.

Supreme Court denied the motion to suppress. Following a bench trial, defendant was convicted as stated above. The People requested that defendant be adjudicated a persistent felony offender based upon prior first-and second-degree robbery convictions. Following a hearing, the court adjudicated defendant a persistent felony offender and sentenced him to an aggregate term of 15 years to life in prison.

The Appellate Division affirmed, with one Justice dissenting ( 130 A.D.3d 644, 13 N.Y.S.3d 215 [2d Dept.2015] ). That Court concluded that defendant's warrantless arrest did not violate Payton(see id. at 645, 13 N.Y.S.3d 215 ). The Appellate Division made factual findings that, after entering the front door of the house, passing through a vestibule and climbing the stairs, "[o]ne of the officers knocked on the closed apartment door, the defendant opened it, and the officer effectuated the arrest in the doorway. The arresting officer did not go inside the defendant's apartment, or reach in to pull the defendant out" (id.[citations omitted] ). Most critically here, the Appellate Division found that "defendant was arrested at the threshold of his apartment, after he voluntarily emerged" (id.[internal quotation marks and citation omitted] ).2 Thus, the Appellate Division concluded that defendant had voluntarily "surrendered the enhanced constitutional protection of the home" (id.[internal quotation marks and citation omitted] ). The Appellate Division also upheld the persistent felony offender adjudication. The dissenting Justice diverged from the majority only with respect to the denial of defendant's motion to suppress, concluding that the People failed to establish that the initial police entry into the building where defendant lived was lawful because there was no evidence that the police knew the building was a two-family house, rather than a one-family house, prior to entering it (see id. at 646, 13 N.Y.S.3d 215 ).

The dissenting Justice thereafter granted defendant leave to appeal.

II.

Defendant's primary argument is that his post-arrest statements and the physical evidence recovered from him at the precinct should have been suppressed because his warrantless arrest in the doorway of his apartment was unconstitutional under Payton. Specifically, he asserts that the arrest violated his constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures because he opened his door only in response to knocking by police officers who were there for the sole purpose of arresting him without a warrant. Defendant's arguments are refuted by our precedent.

Although "[i]t is axiomatic that warrantless entries into a home to make an arrest are presumptively unreasonable" ( People v. McBride, 14 N.Y.3d 440, 445, 902 N.Y.S.2d 830, 928 N.E.2d 1027 [2010] [internal quotation marks and citation omitted and emphasis added] ), we "have long recognized that the Fourth Amendment is not violated every time police enter a private premises without a warrant" ( People v. Molnar, 98 N.Y.2d 328, 331, 746 N.Y.S.2d 673, 774 N.E.2d 738 [2002] ). There are "a number of ‘carefully delineated’ exceptions to the Fourth Amendment's Warrant Clause" in that context ( Molnar, 98 N.Y.2d at 331, 746 N.Y.S.2d 673, 774 N.E.2d 738, quoting Welsh v. Wisconsin, 466 U.S. 740, 749–750, 104 S.Ct. 2091, 80 L.Ed.2d 732 [1984] ). One of those exceptions is consent to entry (see id. at 331 n. 1, 746 N.Y.S.2d 673, 774 N.E.2d 738 ; People v. Levan, 62 N.Y.2d 139, 142, 476 N.Y.S.2d 101, 464 N.E.2d 469 [1984] ). Similarly, we have repeatedly and consistently recognized that, even where "the police could have obtained an arrest warrant for [a] defendant from a neutral magistrate before it dispatched ... members from its force to [the] defendant's home ..., there [i]s nothing illegal about the police going to [a] defendant's apartment and requesting that he [or she] voluntarily come out" ( McBride, 14 N.Y.3d at 447, 902 N.Y.S.2d 830, 928 N.E.2d 1027 ; see People v. Spencer, 29 N.Y.3d 302, 312, 56 N.Y.S.3d 494, 78 N.E.3d 1178 [2017] ; People v. Reynoso, 2 N.Y.3d 820, 821, 781 N.Y.S.2d 284, 814 N.E.2d 456 [2004] ; People v. Minley, 68 N.Y.2d 952, 953–954, 510 N.Y.S.2d 87, 502 N.E.2d 1002 [1986] ).

The Supreme Court of the United States held in Payton itself that "the Fourth Amendment ... prohibits the police from making a warrantless and nonconsensual entry into a suspect's home in order to make a routine felony arrest" ( 445 U.S. at 576, 100 S.Ct. 1371 [emphasis added] ) despite "ample time to obtain a warrant" ( id. at 583, 100 S.Ct. 1371 ). The Court explained that "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" ( id. at 590, 100 S.Ct. 1371 ).

As the Supreme Court has subsequently explained, Payton does not prohibit the police from knocking on a suspect's door because,

"[w]hen law enforcement officers who are not armed with a warrant knock on a door, they do no more than any private citizen might do. And whether the person who knocks on the door and requests the opportunity to speak is a police officer or a private citizen, the occupant has no obligation to open the door or to speak" ( Kentucky v. King, 563 U.S. 452, 469–470, 131 S.Ct. 1849, 179 L.Ed.2d 865 [2011] ).

However, police may not compel a suspect to open a door by threatening to violate the Fourth Amendment by, "for example, ... announcing that they would break down the door if the occupants did not open the door voluntarily" ( id. at 471, 131 S.Ct. 1849 ).3 Nor does Payton prohibit a warrantless arrest in the doorway; indeed, "the warrant requirement makes sense only in terms of the entry, rather than the arrest [because] the arrest itself is no more threatening or humiliating than a street arrest" ( 3 Wayne R. LaFave, Search and Seizure § 6.1 [e] [5th ed. 2012] [internal quotation marks omitted] ).

Consistent with that understanding of Payton as prohibiting only "the police ... crossing the threshold of a suspect's home to effect a warrantless arrest in the absence of exigent circumstances" ( Minley, 68 N.Y.2d at 953, 510 N.Y.S.2d 87, 502 N.E.2d 1002 ), we have upheld warrantless arrests—both planned and unplanned—of defendant...

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