The defendant was suspected of driving a getaway car involved in a robbery and murder. Officers learned that the defendant was staying in a home occupied by two women. After receiving this information, the officers surrounded the home and telephoned the women, urging them to tell the defendant to come out. During this conversation, a male voice was heard saying “tell them I left.” One of the women relayed this message to the officers. There were no indications that the women were in danger or being held against their will by the defendant. Nonetheless, without either the consent of the homeowners or a warrant, the officers entered the home to arrest the defendant. The officers found the defendant hiding in a closet and arrested him. Shortly thereafter, the defendant made incriminating statements to government officers.
Whether the warrantless, non-consensual entry into the house where the defendant had been staying violated his Fourth Amendment rights?
Yes. As an “overnight guest,” the defendant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the house. The entry to arrest him, made without a warrant, consent, or exigent circumstances, was a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
While the defendant in this case was not the legal owner of the home, he was an “overnight guest” there. This fact allowed him to create a reasonable expectation of privacy in the home. An overnight guest “seeks shelter in another’s home precisely because it provides him with privacy, a place where he and his possessions will not be disturbed by anyone but his host and those his host allows inside.”
No exigent circumstances existed that would excuse the officers’ warrantless entry into the home. While the crime was serious, the defendant was not considered to be the murderer, but only the getaway driver. The officers had previously recovered the murder weapon and there was no evidence that the two women inside the residence were in danger. The officers had the home surrounded. It was apparent that the defendant was not able to leave. If he had, he would have been arrested in a public place. For all of these reasons, exigent circumstances did not exist to enter the home. The defendant’s statement was suppressed as the fruit of his unlawful arrest.
* 495 U.S. 91, 110 S. Ct. 1684 (1990)