Officers arrested two people for possessing cocaine. They told the officers that they had purchased the cocaine from the defendant. A U.S. Attorney told the officers to arrest the defendant but that a search warrant for the defendant’s apartment probably could not be obtained until the following day. The officers were to secure the apartment in the meantime to prevent the destruction of evidence.
The officers arrested the defendant in the lobby of his apartment building, took him to the apartment, knocked on his door, and when it was opened by Colon, entered the apartment without requesting or receiving permission. The officers conducted a limited security check of the apartment and in the process, observed in plain view various drug paraphernalia. Colon was arrested and he and the defendant were taken into custody. Two officers remained in the apartment awaiting the warrant, but because of administrative delay, the warrant was not issued until nineteen hours after the initial entry. In the search pursuant to the warrant, the agents discovered cocaine and records of narcotics transactions.
Whether the initial entry by the officers was lawful?
Yes. When officers, having probable cause, enter a premises, and secure the premises while others, in good faith, are in the process of obtaining a search warrant, they do not offend the Fourth Amendment.
A seizure affects possessory interests. A search affects privacy interests. Therefore, a warrantless seizure of a person’s property can be reasonable on the basis of probable cause but a warrantless search might be unreasonable.
In this case, the officers had probable cause in advance that there was a criminal enterprise being conducted in the defendant’s apartment. Securing the premises from within was no greater an interference with the defendant’s possessory interests (a seizure) than a perimeter stakeout. Under either method, officers control the apartment pending the arrival of a search warrant. Further, there was no evidence that the officers exploited the defendant’s privacy interests while in the apartment. They simply awaited issuance of the warrant.
As a secondary point, the exclusionary rule suppresses evidence not only obtained as a direct result of an illegal search or seizure, but also evidence later found to be derivative of that illegal venture. However, evidence is not to be excluded if the connection between the government conduct and the discovery and seizure of the evidence is so attenuated as to dissipate the illegal taint. Therefore, whether the initial entry was legal is irrelevant to the admissibility of the challenged evidence because there was an independent source for the warrant under which that evidence was seized. None of the information on which the warrant was secured was based on the initial entry into the defendant’s apartment.
468 U.S. 796, 104 S. Ct. 3380 (1984)
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