On October 20, 2014, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals of decided the United States v. Reid [i], in which they found that an officer acted reasonably under the Fourth Amendment when he accompanied an arrestee back into her home so she could put on additional clothes. The relevant facts of Reid, taken directly from the case, are as follows:
In 2011, Reid was living with his girlfriend, Earnestine Graham. Graham was serving a term of federal supervised release, and she had violated the conditions of her release. Several law enforcement officers, including deputy United States marshals and St. Louis police detectives, went to Graham’s home around 6:30 a.m. on October 10, 2011, to execute an arrest warrant for Graham. The front door was cracked open, and a deputy pushed it open. He saw Graham about eight to ten feet from the doorway. She was dressed in her pajamas. The deputy asked Graham to approach the doorway and told her to turn around. He then handcuffed Graham and pulled her outside the door.
After arresting Graham, the officers asked her if anyone else was inside the home, and she told them only her minor children were inside. Officers then conducted what they described as a “security sweep” of the entire residence. When the sweep was completed, officers allowed Graham to reenter the home to dress. While accompanying Graham to her bedroom, an officer discovered in plain view an SKS assault rifle.
Graham told the officers the firearm belonged to her boyfriend, Reid, and that there were no other firearms in the home. Reid arrived shortly thereafter and parked his vehicle near the residence. After identifying Reid as Graham’s boyfriend, officers detained Reid outside the residence.
After advising Graham of her rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), the officers asked Graham if she would consent to a search of the home. She agreed and signed a consent form. During a search of the home, officers discovered a shotgun on a windowsill in Graham’s bedroom, a disassembled pistol, and ammunition.
A grand jury charged Reid with unlawful possession of a firearm as a previously convicted felon. [ii]
Reid filed a motion to suppress the evidence found in the home he shared with his girlfriend and the district court denied the motion. He was subsequently convicted by a jury. He filed an appeal of the denial of the motion to suppress to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
On appeal, Reid argued that it violated the Fourth Amendment for the officers to enter Graham and Reid’s home without a warrant to accompany her as she put on clothes after her arrest. The court of appeals stated:
When an arrestee chooses to reenter her home for her own convenience, it is reasonable for officers to accompany her and to monitor her movements. Illinois v. McArthur, 531 U.S. 326, 335 (2001); Washington v. Chrisman, 455 U.S. 1, 6-7 (1982); DeBuse, 289 F.3d at 1074-75. [emphasis added]
The court then noted that when Graham was arrested, she was only wearing pajamas. The deputies allowed her to enter her home to change her clothes and, as such, it was reasonable for them to accompany her into the residence. While Reid argued that Graham did not request to change clothes, the court of appeals found the language used by the district court finding that Graham was “allowed,” implied that she made a request.
Therefore, in keeping with the above rule, the court held it was reasonable for the deputies to enter the house. The rifle was in plain view for the deputies upon their entry; upon seeing the rifle, the deputies obtained valid consent to search the house.
Therefore, the court of appeals affirmed the denial of the motion to suppress.
Note: Court holdings can vary significantly between jurisdictions. As such, it is advisable to seek the advice of a local prosecutor or legal adviser regarding questions on specific cases. This article is not intended to constitute legal advice on a specific case.
[i] No. 12-3896 (8th Cir. Decided October 20, 2014)
[ii] Id. at 2-3