Supreme Court rules arrest 1 mile from search premises unreasonable

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF] 6-3 in Bailey v. United States [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; JURIST report] that police cannot a detain a suspect a mile away from the premises in the search warrant. The court found that Michigan v. Summers [opinion] does not apply to this situation, where Chunon Bailey was detained a mile away from his residence. Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the opinion, stating that three law enforcement interests considered in Summers—officer safety, facilitating the completion of the search, and preventing flight—are not as important in situations such as Bailey's.

[N]one applies with the same or similar force to the detention of recent occupants beyond the immediate vicinity of the premises to be searched. Any of the individual interests is also insufficient, on its own, to justify an expansion of the rule in Summers to permit the detention of a former occupant, wherever he may be found away from the scene of the search. This would give officers too much discretion. The categorical authority to detain incident to the execution of a search warrant must be limited to the immediate vicinity of the premises to be searched.
The court did not address if the arrest would have been constitutional under a Terry stop, and left the issue for remand.

Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, concurred in the decision but disagreed with the majority's use of interest balancing. Justice Stephen Breyer dissented, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Breyer's dissent argued that the incident was almost indistinguishable from Summers and the court had invited confusion by not explaining what "in the vicinity of the premises" means. "A bright line will sometimes help police more easily administer Fourth Amendment rules, while also helping to ensure that the police do not go beyond the bounds of the reasonable. The majority, however, offers no easily administered bright line. It describes its line as one drawn at 'the immediate vicinity of the premises to be searched,' to be determined by 'a number of factors ... including [but not limited to] the lawful limits of the premises, whether the occupant was within the line of sight of his dwelling, the ease of reentry from the occupant's location, and other relevant factors.' The majority's line invites case-by-case litigation although, divorced as it is from interests that directly motivate the Fourth Amendment, it offers no clear case-by-case guidance."

 

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