Authority to Detain During Search w/ Warrant Limited to Immediate Vecinity of Searched Area

The categorical authority to detain incident to the execution of a search warrant should be limited to the immediate vicinity of the premises to be searched. Bailey v. United States, No. 11-770 (U.S. Feb 19, 2013).

The defendant, who was convicted of drug possession and firearms possession, sought review of a decision of the Second Circuit that affirmed denial of his suppression motion. Because the Federal Courts of Appeals disagreed as to whether Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692 (1981) justified the detention of occupants beyond the immediate vicinity of the premises covered by a search warrant, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari. The Supreme Court reversed the decision upholding denial of the suppression motion and remanded.

While police were preparing to execute a search warrant, detectives conducting surveillance and saw the defendant and another person leave the area above the apartment and drive away. The defendant was stopped approximately one mile away. A “pat down” of the defendant revealed keys that unlocked the apartment.

The district and appellate courts found that the detention was justified under Summers as incident to the execution of a search warrant.

The U.S. Supreme Court held that an exception to the Fourth Amendment rule prohibiting detention absent probable cause should not diverge from its purposes and rationale. There were three important law enforcement rationales in Summers justifying the detention of an occupant who was on the premises during the execution of a search warrant: officer safety, facilitating completion of the search, and preventing flight. None of these interests applied to the detention of defendant, who was a former occupant of the premises and found away from the scene of the search. Justice Scalia concurred. Justice Breyer dissented.

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