Police violated the Fourth Amendment in Watertown house to house searches

April 23, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Good morning:

We begin today with a history lesson purchased in blood, sweat and tears:

William Pitt declared in Parliament in 1763,

“The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the force of the crown. It may be frail—its roof may shake—the wind may blow through it—the storm may enter, the rain may enter—but the King of England cannot enter—all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.”

The house to house searches by police without search warrants in Watertown violated the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

With the exception of a few narrow and well-delineated exceptions that do not apply to the house to house general searches in Watertown, the Fourth Amendment prohibits police searches of residences without a search warrant issued by a neutral and detached magistrate upon reviewing a sworn affidavit and finding that it establishes probable cause to believe that the residence to be searched contains evidence of a particular crime. Both the residence to be searched and the evidence to be sought must be particularly described in the affidavit and the search warrant.

Consent to search is one exception; however, consent must be free and voluntary. Mere acquiescence to authority at the point of a gun is not valid consent.

When a prosecutor seeks to rely upon consent to justify the lawfulness of a search, he has the burden of proving that the consent was, in fact, freely and voluntarily given. This burden cannot be discharged by showing no more than acquiescence to a claim of lawful authority. A search conducted in reliance upon a warrant cannot later be justified on the basis of consent if it turns out that the warrant was invalid. The result can be no different when it turns out that the State does not even attempt to rely upon the validity of the warrant, or fails to show that there was, in fact, any warrant at all.

When a law enforcement officer claims authority to search a home under a warrant, he announces in effect that the occupant has no right to resist the search. The situation is instinct with coercion—albeit colorably lawful coercion. Where there is coercion there cannot be consent.

Bumper v. North Carolina, 391 U.S. 543, 548-550 (1968).

Exigent circumstances is another exception. For example, police can lawfully enter a residence without a search warrant, if they are in hot pursuit of a fleeing suspect for whom they have probable cause to arrest or to prevent the destruction of evidence. United States v. Santana, 427 U.S. 38 (1976).

In Santana for example,

Michael Gilletti, an undercover officer with the Philadelphia Narcotics Squad arranged a heroin “buy” with one Patricia McCafferty (from whom he had purchased narcotics before). McCafferty told him it would cost $115 “and we will go down to Mom Santana’s for the dope.”

Gilletti notified his superiors of the impending transaction, recorded the serial numbers of $110 (sic) in marked bills, and went to meet McCafferty at a prearranged location. She got in his car and directed him to drive to 2311 North Fifth Street, which, as she had previously informed him, was respondent Santana’s residence.

McCafferty took the money and went inside the house, stopping briefly to speak to respondent Alejandro who was sitting on the front steps. She came out shortly afterwards and got into the car. Gilletti asked for the heroin; she thereupon extracted from her bra several glassine envelopes containing a brownish-white powder and gave them to him.

Gilletti then stopped the car, displayed his badge, and placed McCafferty under arrest. He told her that the police were going back to 2311 North Fifth Street and that he wanted to know where the money was. She said, “Mom has the money.” At this point Sergeant Pruitt and other officers came up to the car. Gilletti showed them the envelope and said “Mom Santana has the money.” Gilletti then took McCafferty to the police station.

Pruitt and the others then drove approximately two blocks back to 2311 North Fifth Street. They saw Santana standing in the doorway of the house with a brown paper bag in her hand. They pulled up to within 15 feet of Santana and got out of their van, shouting “police,” and displaying their identification. As the officers approached, Santana retreated into the vestibule of her house.

The officers followed through the open door, catching her in the vestibule. As she tried to pull away, the bag tilted and “two bundles of glazed paper packets with a white powder” fell to the floor. Respondent Alejandro tried to make off with the dropped envelopes but was forcibly restrained. When Santana was told to empty her pockets she produced $135, $70 of which could be identified as Gilletti’s marked money. The white powder in the bag was later determined to be heroin.

Santana, at 39-41

Justice Rehnquist wrote the majority opinion upholding the warrantless arrest and seizure of heroin and money from Santana thereby reversing the Third Circuit Court Of Appeals decision. He said,

In United States v. Watson, 423 U. S. 411 (1976), we held that the warrantless arrest of an individual in a public place upon probable cause did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Thus the first question we must decide is whether, when the police first sought to arrest Santana, she was in a public place.

While it may be true that under the common law of property the threshold of one’s dwelling is “private,” as is the yard surrounding the house, it is nonetheless clear that under the cases interpreting the Fourth Amendment Santana was in a “public” place. She was not in an area where she had any expectation of privacy. “What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own house or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection.” Katz v. United States, 389 U. S. 347, 351 (1967). She was not merely visible to the public but was as exposed to public view, speech, hearing, and touch as if she had been standing completely outside her house. Hester v. United States, 265 U. S. 57, 59 (1924). Thus, when the police, who concededly had probable cause to do so, sought to arrest her, they merely intended to perform a function which we have approved in Watson.

The only remaining question is whether her act of retreating into her house could thwart an otherwise proper arrest. We hold that it could not. In Warden v. Hayden, 387 U. S. 294 (1967), we recognized the right of police, who had probable cause to believe that an armed robber had entered a house a few minutes before, to make a warrantless entry to arrest the robber and to search for weapons. This case, involving a true “hot pursuit,” is clearly governed by Warden; the need to act quickly here is even greater than in that case while the intrusion is much less. The District Court was correct in concluding that “hot pursuit” means some sort of a chase, but it need not be an extended hue and cry “in and about [the] public streets.” The fact that the pursuit here ended almost as soon as it began did not render it any the less a “hot pursuit” sufficient to justify the warrantless entry into Santana’s house. Once Santana saw the police, there was likewise a realistic expectation that any delay would result in destruction of evidence. See Vale v. Louisiana, 399 U. S. 30, 35 (1970). Once she had been arrested the search, incident to that arrest, which produced the drugs and money was clearly justified. United States v. Robinson, 414 U. S. 218 (1973); Chimel v. California, 395 U. S. 752, 762-763 (1969).

We thus conclude that a suspect may not defeat an arrest which has been set in motion in a public place, and is therefore proper under Watson, by the expedient of escaping to a private place. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is

Reversed.

Santana, at 42-43

The police who conducted the Watertown house to house searches did not apply for search warrants. They did not have probable cause to search any of the houses they searched and they did not find the suspects or any evidence to be used against them. These were general searches which are specifically prohibited by the Fourth Amendment.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was ultimately found hiding in a boat outside the area that the police searched. He was discovered by the owner of the boat who promptly notified police. The boat was situated on a trailer parked in the owner’s driveway.

Either we are a nation of laws or we are not.

We cannot claim to be a nation of laws when we break our laws.

________________________________________

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Thank you,

Fred


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