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Can Police With a Maryland Arrest Warrant for Me Search Someone Else’s House If They Arrest Me There?

The general rule is that a warrant is always required and that warrantless searches a per se unconstitutional- unless an exception applies. If it were that easy and straightforward, there would be no need for decades of Supreme Court precedent explaining what those exceptions mean, and how they apply. 

Can Maryland Police Enter My Home Without a Warrant?

Absent a true emergency, or consent, law enforcement officers cannot enter your home without a warrant. Courts have long held that the” chief evil” to be avoided by strict application of the Fourth  Amendment to law enforcement conduct is the unreasonable intrusion on the sanctity of one’s home. A core, cornerstone principle of our constitutional protections against the power of government is that without a warrant, an emergency or consent, the police cannot enter our homes.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides:

“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.”

     -U.S. Const., amend. IV

The reasonableness component here has been interpreted to mean, “constitutional reasonableness”. In determining what is reasonable in a constitutional sense, a court will engage in a balancing analysis, where the privacy rights of an individual citizen are weighed against the interest of law enforcement – and the people as a whole- in ferreting out, stopping, and preventing crime.  Not all searches, or seizures are constitutionally unreasonable, but searches and seizures without a  warrant are presumptively unreasonable, and a violation of one’s Fourth Amendment rights. Courts have long held that a” chief evil” to be avoided by strict application of the Fourth  Amendment to law enforcement conduct is the unreasonable intrusion on the sanctity of one’s home. A core, cornerstone principle of our constitutional protections against the power of government is that without a warrant, emergency or consent, the police cannot enter our homes.

 The U.S. Supreme court has stated, in perhaps the foremost case on the subject:

“To be arrested in the home involves not only the invasion attendant to all arrests but also an invasion of the sanctity of the home, which is too substantial an invasion to allow without a warrant, in the absence of exigent circumstances, even when it is accomplished under statutory authority and when probable cause is present. In terms that apply equally to seizures of property and to seizures of persons, 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 v. New York Riddick v. New York, 445 U.S. 573 (1979)

The sanctity of one’s dwelling is recognized in other legal concepts as well. For example, the “castle doctrine” employed in some jurisdictions holds that although one may have a duty to retreat before resorting to deadly force in self-defense, one would never have to retreat from the safe confines of their own home prior to utilizing such measures. Some jurisdictions employ a “homestead” exemption, preventing the forced sale of one's home by creditors. But aside from any legal concepts or doctrines, it’s a safe bet that most people consider their home a sanctuary where they conduct their most private and intimate affairs, store their most important objects, and shelter their family. Our society and culture, in addition to our legal principles, have long recognized the protection of a citizen's privacy rights, and in particular, the privacy rights in connection with their home.

Do Maryland Police Need an Arrest Warrant to Arrest Me In My House?

Yes. Absent consent or a verifiable emergency, Maryland enforcement officers would require a warrant to enter your home.

Do Maryland Police Need an Arrest Warrant and A Search Warrant to Enter my House to Arrest me?

Police do not need a separate search warrant to arrest you in your house. This bright-line rule is now some 40 years old and springs from U.S. Supreme Court Opinion in Payton v. US.

“In Payton the Court held that an arrest warrant suffices to authorize law enforcement to enter the home of the subject of the arrest warrant, if, at the time of the entry, the police have reason to believe the arrestee is in his or her home. [Full citations added/internal citations omitted].

     -Jones v. State, 425 Md. 1, 38 A.3d 333 (Md. 2012)

Do Maryland Police Need an Arrest Warrant and a Search Warrant to Arrest Me In Someone Else’s House?

The general rule is yes, both warrants would be required.

“In Steagald, [Steagald v. United States, 451 U.S. 204 [1981]]  the Court held that an arrest warrant does not authorize law enforcement to enter a third person's home to arrest the subject of the arrest warrant, even if the officers have reason to believe the subject of the arrest warrant is inside that home. In that latter scenario (and absent valid consent to enter or exigent circumstances), the law enforcement officers may not enter the home of the third person to execute an arrest warrant, unless the officers are armed with a warrant to search the home of that third party, and the search warrant is supported by the probable cause-based averment of the affiant that the subject of the arrest warrant is in the home of such third person. An arrest warrant for the subject believed to be in the home of the third party will not suffice to authorize entry into the third party's home.”

     -Jones v. State, 425 Md. 1, 38 A.3d 333 (Md. 2012)

The exception to the general rule may apply where the police have reasonable grounds to believe the target of the warrant actually lives at the home, rather than just being present, in that third party’s home. The test for this requirement comes to us from Payton. If “the police have reason to believe the arrestee is in his or her home” only an arrest warrant may be required.

Can Police With a Maryland Arrest Warrant Search My House If They Arrest Me in My House?

If law enforcement has a valid Maryland arrest warrant, and lawfully enters the home of the suspect pursuant to that authority, a number of legal doctrines permitting a search, beyond arrest, may come into play. The answer to this question, is, unfortunately, “It depends”.

Certainly, once lawfully inside a home, a Maryland law enforcement officer may seize any contraband in “plain view”. The plain view doctrine has been explained by the Supreme Court:

What the "plain view" cases have in common is that the police officer in each of them had a prior justification for an intrusion in the course of which he came inadvertently across a piece of evidence incriminating the accused. The doctrine serves to supplement the prior justification -- whether it be a warrant for another object, hot pursuit, search incident to a lawful arrest, or some other legitimate reason for being present unconnected with a search directed against the accused -- and permits the warrantless seizure. Of course, the extension of the original justification is legitimate only where it is immediately apparent to the police that they have evidence before them; the "plain view" doctrine may not be used to extend a general exploratory search from one object to another until something incriminating at last emerges.”

     -Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443 (1971)

It is equally clear that once lawfully inside a home, a Maryland law enforcement officer may seize any contraband, evidence, or weapons found on the person of the arrestee.

“A custodial arrest of a suspect based on probable cause is a reasonable intrusion under the Fourth Amendment and a search incident to the arrest requires no additional justification, such as the probability in a particular arrest situation that weapons or evidence would in fact be found upon the suspect's person; and whether or not there was present one of the reasons supporting the authority for a search of the person incident to a lawful arrest need not be litigated in each case.”

“ A search incident to a valid arrest is not limited to a frisk of the suspect's outer clothing and removal of such weapons as the arresting officer may, as a result of such frisk, reasonably believe and ascertain that the suspect has in his possession, and the absence of probable fruits or further evidence of the particular crime for which the arrest is made does not narrow the standards applicable to such a search.”

     -U.S. v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218 -1973]

What Is A Reasonable Expectation of Privacy?
FULL TRANSCRIPT The Fourth Amendment to the Unite States constitution guarantees all U.S. citizens the right to be secure in their persons, their effects, their papers and their homes. When determining how to best guard this interest in security the Supreme Court has fashioned a balancing test. On one part of this scale the privacy interest of the individual citizen is considered. On the other part of this scale the legitimate interest of the government in ferreting out and stopping crime is also weighed into the equation. Now when addressing the privacy interest of an individual citizen the Supreme Court talks about a “reasonable expectation of privacy”. In other words, a subjective expectation of privacy on the part of that individual, as well as an expectation that society in general- and in particular the court- is willing to recognize as being a reasonable one. So that for example, an individual walking down a busy city street has little expectation of privacy in how they look or the clothes that they wear. Contrast that with an individual riding in a motor vehicle, which is to some extent a closed conveyance. Here, the expectation of privacy is somewhat heightened. Indeed, a motor vehicle might contain other areas that can be secluded such as a trunk or a glove compartment/. But the expectation of privacy in an automobile is not the same as it would be for activities conversations or conduct within the confines of one's own home. And it is here that the Supreme Court has consistently found that the expectation of privacy is the highest, and the justification that needs to be shown for an intrusion on that privacy interest must be the greatest.

Once lawfully inside a home, a Maryland law enforcement officer may seize any contraband or weapons found on the person of the arrestee or in the immediate “grab area” of the arrestee within which such weapons, if used, may present a threat of harm to the arresting officer.

It is likewise well established that “[a]n arresting officer may search the arrestee's person to discover and remove weapons and to seize evidence to prevent its concealment or destruction, and may search the area "within the immediate control" of the person arrested, meaning the area from which he might gain possession of a weapon or destructible evidence.”

     -Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969)

However, under Chimel any search beyond this “area of immediate control” would typically require the issuance of a separate search warrant for the premises, unless other justifications for a search are present.  

“For the routine search of rooms other than that in which an arrest occurs, or for searching desk drawers or other closed or concealed areas in that room itself, absent well-recognized exceptions, a search warrant is required” Chimel, supra.

Under Payton, or Chimel, a productive [ from law enforcement perspective]  far-reaching, general search of premises of an arrestee would not be allowed under the authority of only a facially valid Maryland arrest warrant.  But Fourth Amendment law is nothing if not nuanced and fact-dependent. A common theme in this body of the law is that, in addition to the privacy interests of those involved, and the interest of society in preventing lawlessness, a third factor merits significant consideration: the safety of the officers involved. 20 years after Chimel was decided, the Supreme Court decided Maryland v. Buie, 494 U.S. 325 (1990). Here the Court examined what factors might permit a search of a home, without a warrant, when arresting the occupant of that home. In Buie, the Court used an officer safety consideration to allow for a search of an arrestee’s home, beyond the area of immediate control and ruled:

“[T]hat as an incident to the arrest the officers could, as a precautionary matter and without probable cause or reasonable suspicion, look in closets and other spaces immediately adjoining the place of arrest from which an attack could be immediately launched. Beyond that, however, we hold that there must be articulable facts which, taken together with the rational inferences from those facts, would warrant a reasonably prudent officer in believing that the area to be swept harbors an individual posing a danger to those on the arrest scene.” 

This exception to the exception [search incident to arrest] to the general rule of any search without a warrant is unreasonable, and therefore unlawful, is now known as a “ protective sweep”. The facts Of Buie, as presented by the Court illustrate the circumstances under which a broader search of an arrestee’s home, under the authority of a warrant, and the target of that search, may be permissible. “Two men committed an armed robbery of a Godfather's Pizza restaurant in Prince George's County, Maryland. One of the robbers was wearing a red running suit. That same day, Prince George's County police obtained arrest warrants for respondent ….Buie and his suspected accomplice in the robbery…Allen. Buie's house was placed under police surveillance.” Subsequently “the police executed the arrest warrant for Buie. They first had a police department secretary telephone Buie's house to verify that he was home. The secretary spoke to a female first, then to Buie himself. Six or seven officers proceeded to Buie's house. Once inside, the officers fanned out through the first and second floors. Corporal James Rozar announced that he would "freeze" the basement so that no one could come up and surprise the officers. With his service revolver drawn, Rozar twice shouted into the basement, ordering anyone down there to come out. When a voice asked who was calling, Rozar announced three times: "this is the police, show me your hands." Eventually, a pair of hands appeared around the bottom of the stairwell and Buie emerged from the basement. He was arrested, searched, and handcuffed by Rozar. Thereafter, Detective Joseph Frolich entered the basement "in case there was someone else" down there. He noticed a red running suit lying in plain view on a stack of clothing and seized it.’

Buie moved to exclude the suit from evidence. The Supreme Court found that Frolich’s warrantless entry into the basement passed constitutional muster, noting that facts known to the officers, and the seriousness of the alleged offenses created reasonable grounds to believe there may be others present who could harm the officers. The court was careful to limit the extent of the sweep, noting it “ is not a full search of the premises, but may extend only to a cursory inspection of those spaces where a person may be found. The sweep lasts no longer than is necessary to dispel the reasonable suspicion of danger and in any event no longer than it takes to complete the arrest and depart the premises.”

Can Police With a Maryland Arrest Search Someone Else’s House If They Arrest Me There?

The essential rule of Steagald is that in order to search the home of a third party, when arresting the target of a warrant that does not live there, remains, that in the absence of a well recognized exception to the warrant  requirement a valid Maryland search warrant, based on probable cause, signed by a magistrate will be required to justify a search of that third party’s dwelling. As a cautionary note, the rule in Buie could change the analysis, if there is an articulable reasonable suspicion that the “area to be swept harbors an individual posing a danger to those on the arrest scene”.