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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > March 2013 > Bailey v. U.S., U.S. Supreme Court, Feb. 19, 2013

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Bailey v. U.S., U.S. Supreme Court, Feb. 19, 2013

Question: May peace officers detain a person while executing a search warrant at the person’s home when that person has left the premises?
Quick Answer: Yes, but only if the person is a recent occupant and is within the immediate vicinity of the premises being searched.

Facts: Police obtained a search warrant to look for weapons in an apartment because a confidential informant told officers he saw a hand gun in the apartment during a recent drug buy. Two officers surveilling the area watched as two men left the apartment, both matching the CI’s description of the suspect selling drugs. The officers watched the men get into a car and drive away from the apartment complex. The officers then radioed the search warrant team to begin their search.
During that time, the surveilling officers followed the suspects’ car for almost a mile before making a traffic stop. The officers ordered the men out of the car and conducted a pat-down for weapons. When asked where they had been driving from, one of the suspects, Chunon Bailey, explained that he lived in the nearby apartment complex even though the address on his driver’s license was a different location. Bailey’s car passenger confirmed that Bailey lived in the apartment. But when police told Bailey that they were executing a search warrant at the apartment, he changed his story. At that point, he claimed he was only staying at the apartment but didn’t live there and so nothing in the apartment belonged to him. Then different officers showed up and drove Bailey back to the apartment. A gun and drugs were found inside, and police discovered a key to the apartment during Bailey’s search incident to arrest. Bailey was arrested for three federal offenses, and he moved to suppress the evidence and any statements he made based on an unreasonable seizure.
Why this case is important: The Supreme Court determined that Bailey’s detention violated the Fourth Amendment. In Michigan v. Summers, the court held that law enforcement may detain occupants of a residence without a warrant or any level of suspicion if the detention is based on officer safety, aiding the completion of the search, and preventing flight if incriminating evidence is found. All of these justifications must be satisfied before a warrantless detention will be lawful. And when detaining a recent occupant of a residence, the occupant must have been within “the immediate vicinity of the premises to be searched” for the warrantless detention to be lawful. Here, police waited until Bailey was almost a mile down the road before they stopped him, which is clearly not within the immediate vicinity of Bailey’s apartment. Therefore, police couldn’t justify detaining Bailey based on Summers.
And the court refused to extend Summers because a remote detention is more intrusive than an on-scene one, appearing to both the recent occupant and spectators as a full-fledged arrest.
Keep in mind: To detain a recent occupant during a search of his home, the biggest consideration is distance. How far away is the occupant from his home? To permit a warrantless detention, the court has instructed that an occupant must be within the “immediate vicinity” of the residence that’s being searched. We aren’t given a definition of “immediate vicinity,” but factors that will help you judge any close calls are: the lawful limits of the premises (the property boundaries); if the occupant is within the line of sight of the premises; and the ease of re-entry from the occupant’s location.
However, don’t forget about Terry: The recent occupant of the premises also may be your suspect, so you may be able to justify your detention if you’ve got reasonable suspicion.
Visit the U.S. Supreme Court’s website to view the entire opinion.