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SCOTUS to Consider Detention Incident to Search Warrant

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

The Supreme Court announced Monday morning that it will review a Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision regarding whether, pursuant to Michigan v. Summers, police officers may detain an individual incident to the execution of a search warrant when the individual has left the immediate vicinity of the premises before the warrant is executed.

The Second Circuit previously ruled that the detention incident to the search warrant was legal.

In 2005, Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD) obtained a search warrant for the "basement apartment of 103 Lake Drive" in Wyandanch, N.Y. that was "believed to be occupied by an individual known as 'Polo', a heavy set black male with short hair." The cops were looking for a "chrome .380 handgun".

Before executing the warrant, two SCPD officers observed Chunon L. Bailey and Bryant Middleton exiting a gate leading to the basement of 103 Lake Drive, and driving away from the house. Both Bailey and Middleton matched the description of "Polo". The officers pulled their car over in the parking lot of a fire station about a mile from the house, approximately five minutes after they left the house.

During the stop, Bailey and Middleton indicated that Bailey lived at 103 Lake Drive ... until they learned the cops were detailing them incident to the execution of a search warrant in the basement apartment of 103 Lake Drive. To that, Bailey responded, "I don't live there. Anything you find there ain't mine, and I'm not cooperating with your investigation."

SCPD found a gun and drugs in plain view in the 103 Lake Drive apartment. Bailey and Middleton were placed under arrest, and Bailey's house and car keys were seized incident to arrest. Later that evening, an SCPD officer discovered that one of the keys on Bailey's key ring opened the door of the basement apartment. In total, less than ten minutes elapsed between Bailey's stop and his formal arrest.

Bailey was charged, and later convicted of, possession with intent to distribute cocaine base and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Bailey moved to vacate the conviction, arguing that government could not sustain his detention under Summers or provide the reasonable suspicion to sustain his detention under Terry v. Ohio based on the facts in the warrant. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, because the officers acted as soon as reasonably practicable in detaining Bailey once he drove off the premises subject to search, his detention incident to the search did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

In Summers, the Supreme Court ruled that police lawfully detained a suspect a home occupant on his property while executing a search warrant. Will the Court extend Summers to allow police to detain an occupant incident to a search warrant when he's not on the property being searched?

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