3rd Circuit Nixes Warrantless Search
(CN) - After chasing a suspect into his home and apprehending him, the police could not continue to search the home for a weapon without applying for a warrant, the 3rd Circuit ruled.
Late on the evening of January 14, 2012, Kamaal Mallory and his stepbrother, Ismail Abu Bakr, were standing outside a neighbor's home in Philadelphia with a group of friends when a police cruiser approached, shined a spotlight on them, and ordered them to disperse.
The men complied, but Abu Bakr cursed at one of the officers, telling him to stop shining the light in his face.
The police then detained Abu Bakr for disorderly conduct, placing him in the cruiser in handcuffs and driving around the corner, where they released him.
Minutes later, the officers received a dispatch that a group of men had gathered nearby, and one of them had a gun.
Mallory matched the description of the man with the gun, and the officers gave chase when they caught sight of a revolver in his waistband.
Mallory ran inside his stepmother's home, and shut the door behind him.
The officers broke down the door, and entered with weapons drawn, gathered the family into the living room, and searched the four-story house for Mallory. They also searched for the firearm inside drawers and under pillows.
They eventually found Mallory in a locked bathroom which they had first overlooked, pried open the door and arrested him.
As the police escorted Mallory to the front door, one of the officers asked if the area behind the door had been searched.
An officer then found a revolver beneath umbrellas behind the front door.
Mallory was indicted for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, but a federal judge suppressed the evidence of the gun found in the search of Abu Bakr's home.
The 3rd Circuit affirmed that decision on Wednesday.
While the initial warrantless entry into the home was justified by the "hot pursuit" warrant exception, by the time the officers apprehended Mallory, they had no further justification to continue searching the home without warrant, the court said.
"By the time Officer Hough searched behind the door and under an umbrella to find the gun, the police had secured Mallory, the family, and the home, and were in control of the situation. Mallory was in handcuffs and was being escorted out of the house by multiple officers," Judge Michael Fisher said. "The house had been thoroughly swept and there were no persons left unaccounted for who might attack the officers by surprise."
In addition, all occupants of the home were under police supervision in one room of the home, so there was no danger that the gun might be moved or disposed of while officers applied for a warrant.
"We do not mean to underplay the dangers that police officers may face when pursuing a suspect into an unfamiliar building. Nonetheless, once the officers had secured the premises and apprehended Mallory, the exigencies of the moment abated and the warrant requirement reattached," Fisher said.