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Muehler v. Mena


Officers had reasonable grounds to believe that at least one member of a gang resided at the defendant’s residence. The gang member was suspected of being armed and dangerous, and a participant in a recent violent crime. The officers obtained a warrant to search the premises for weapons and other evidence. Upon entry to serve the search warrant, the officers located the defendant (not a suspect) and placed her in handcuffs at gunpoint. Three other individuals found at the premises were also handcuffed.


Whether the defendant was detained for an unreasonable amount of time, in an unreasonable manner?


No. The Summers doctrine permits officers to detain occupants of a searched premises where the search involves an element of danger. The use of handcuffs can be a reasonable means of accomplishing this detention.


In Michigan v. Summers, the Supreme Court authorized the detention of “occupants of the premises while a proper search is conducted” where the search was for a controlled substance. The detention of the defendant here was permissible under the standards set out in Summers. The Court also held the Summers’ “authorization to detain an occupant of the place to be searched carries with it the authority to use reasonable force to effectuate the detention.” In this case, the officers’ use of handcuffs and placing the defendant in the garage of the premises was reasonable because the governmental interest outweighed the marginal intrusion upon the defendant. A search warrant for weapons involves inherently dangerous situations, but also the need to control “multiple occupants made the use of handcuffs all the more reasonable.” The fact that the defendant was not a suspect in the investigation was not significant to the Court.


544 U.S. 93, 125 S. Ct. 1465 (2005)

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