People v. Payton

Decision Date11 July 1978
Citation45 N.Y.2d 300,380 N.E.2d 224,408 N.Y.S.2d 395
Parties, 380 N.E.2d 224 The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Theodore PAYTON, Appellant. The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Obie RIDDICK, Appellant.
CourtNew York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

JONES, Judge.

We hold that an entry made for the purpose of effecting a felony arrest within the home of the person to be arrested by a police officer who has entered without permission of the owner, if based on probable cause, is not necessarily violative of the constitutional right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures even though the arresting officer has not obtained a warrant and there are no exigent circumstances.

Defendant Theodore Payton has been convicted on a jury's verdict of the felony murder of a service station manager in connection with an armed robbery committed on the morning of January 12, 1970 by a man carrying a rifle and wearing a ski mask, who fled the scene with the weapon and cash following the homicide. Two days later, on January 14, two eyewitnesses to the crime both of whom had known defendant identified him to the police as the killer. One of the witnesses also furnished defendant's address. On the morning of January 15 about 7:30 a. m., without having first secured a warrant, the detective in charge of the investigation went with three other detectives and a police sergeant to defendant's apartment. Although they observed a light shining beneath the door and heard a radio playing, there was no answer when they knocked. To open the locked metal door they summoned officers from the Emergency Service Department, who arrived about a half hour later and with the aid of crowbars forced open the door. The police entered the apartment, checked the rooms for defendant who was not found, observed a .30 caliber shell casing in plain view on top of a stereo set and then conducted a full-scale search of the apartment, which revealed a shotgun with ammunition in a closet and a sales receipt for a Winchester rifle and photographs of defendant with a ski mask in a dresser drawer. The following day defendant surrendered himself to the police and was subsequently indicted on charges arising out of the service station homicide.

Following a pretrial suppression hearing, the court, on concession by the District Attorney, suppressed all of the items found in the apartment with the exception of the shell casing. The suppression court held that the casing had been inadvertently observed while the police were lawfully in the premises to make a warrantless arrest for a felony which they had reasonable grounds to believe defendant had committed. 1

During the trial the People produced testimony that two .30-30 Winchester discharged shell casings had been found at the scene of the crime and that those shells and the .30 caliber shell casing found in defendant's apartment had been fired from the same rifle. They also called as a witness the owner of a sporting goods store in Peekskill, New York, the store which had issued the rifle sales receipt seized at the time of defendant's arrest but suppressed prior to trial. He testified that on November 19, 1969 he had sold a .30-30 Winchester rifle and shells to a man who identified himself as Theodore Payton. There was also introduced in evidence the Federally required Firearm Transaction Record retained by the seller which bore defendant's signature. The defense objected to both the testimony and the exhibit as inadmissible "tainted fruit" of the unlawful seizure of the suppressed sales receipt. The objections were overruled and, after a posttrial hearing on defendant's motion to set aside the verdict on the ground that the evidence at trial was the product of material which had been ordered suppressed, the motion was denied. The Appellate Division affirmed defendant's conviction of felony murder.

Defendant Obie Riddick has been convicted of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the sixth degree on his plea of guilty following denial of his motion to suppress a quantity of narcotics and a hypodermic syringe taken from a dresser drawer in his home when he was arrested there on March 14, 1974 for the commission of two armed robberies which had occurred in 1971. In June, 1973 the victims had identified defendant from a photograph as the perpetrator of the robberies. Following that identification, the detective investigating the robberies contacted defendant's parole officer and in January, 1974 learned his address. Without having procured an arrest warrant, about noon on March 14, 1974 the detective, two other detectives and the parole officer went to the house where defendant was living. After the parole officer had entered the house, determined that defendant was present and so signaled the waiting policemen, the detective investigating the robberies knocked on the door, which was opened by defendant's three-year-old son. Through the open door the detective observed defendant in the bedroom sitting in bed covered to the waist by a sheet. Entering the apartment with one of the other officers, the detective announced his authority and asked defendant if he was Obie Riddick. Defendant acknowledged his identity and was told that he was under arrest, advised of his rights and instructed to get out of bed. When it then became apparent that defendant was dressed only in his underwear and that he would have to dress, the detective searched the bed, a chest of drawers two feet from the bed and the defendant's clothing. In doing so he found a quantity of narcotics and a hypodermic syringe in the top drawer of the chest. After indictment for the crimes of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree and criminal possession of a hypodermic instrument defendant moved to suppress the drugs and syringe, contending that the arrest had been unlawful because it had been made without a warrant and without announcement by the police of their purpose before entering defendant's home. 2 The motion was denied after a hearing, the suppression court finding that the arrest was lawful because it was based on probable cause and that the search conducted incidental to the arrest was reasonable and did not exceed the limits set out in Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752, 89 S.Ct. 2034, 23 L.Ed.2d 685. Defendant's contentions were not explicitly addressed. A plea of guilty to a reduced charge in satisfaction of the indictment followed the denial of suppression. The conviction was affirmed at the Appellate Division.

In each of these cases we are confronted with the claim that evidence, the introduction or availability of which may be regarded as critical to defendants' convictions, should have been suppressed because it had been unlawfully procured, that is, seized after an entry into defendant's home to make an arrest without either the authority of a previously issued warrant or the existence of exigent circumstances, in violation of constitutional protections. In Payton the challenge is to the .30 caliber shell casing found on defendant's stereo set which matching those found at the service station may well have contributed to identify defendant as the killer in the jury's eyes; in Riddick it is to the narcotics and hypodermic syringes, denial of suppression of which prompted defendant's plea of guilty. In Riddick reliance is also placed on the absence of compliance with a statutory requirement of prior announcement of the police officers' authority and purpose.

The parties to these appeals have extensively briefed the question whether, without infringement of constitutional rights, an arrest may be made within the residence of a defendant based on unquestionable probable cause as each of these arrests was without a warrant in the absence of exigent circumstances. Not insubstantial arguments are mounted in support both of an affirmative and a negative response to the question, and multiple supporting authorities are offered on each side. It is contended by defendants that physical invasion of the home is the "chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed" (United States v. United States Dist. Ct., 407 U.S. 297, 313, 92 S.Ct. 2125, 2134, 32 L.Ed.2d 752); that it has been conclusively determined that, absent exigent circumstances (of which there were none here), an otherwise proper warrantless entry of the home to search for property is impermissible (Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 91 S.Ct. 2022, 29 L.Ed.2d 564); that the sanctity of the home is equally invaded when entry is made for the purpose of arrest; that the more serious consequences of the latter class of entry provide a more compelling reason to require the authority of a warrant in such a situation (United States v. Reed, 2 Cir., 572 F.2d 412; Accarino v. United States, 85 U.S.App.D.C. 394, 179 F.2d 456) in sum, that if a warrant or exigent circumstances is required for a search and seizure, any proper sense of constitutional symmetry would mandate that the same predicate be required for an arrest.

The People, for their part, assert the existence of an established difference between entry in a home to effect an arrest and one to search and seize property (as to which they agree that a warrant is required in the absence of exigent circumstances), and urge that a proper regard for public safety permits even demands recognition of a right in a peace...

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103 cases
  • State v. Ruth
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    ...difference" between police intrusion to search a home and police intrusion to arrest a resident. People v. Payton, 45 N.Y.2d 300, 310, 408 N.Y.S.2d 395, 380 N.E.2d 224 (1978). This difference, together with other factors, said the Court of Appeals, justified warrantless entries into a suspe......
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