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The physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed. Due to their inherent invasiveness, law enforcement entries into homes demand justification, and the United States Supreme Court has long adhered to the view that the warrant procedure minimizes the danger of needless intrusions of that sort. Warrantless searches and seizures inside a home are presumptively unreasonable.
Earnest Moreno absconded from the rehabilitation center to which he had been released on state parole. A warrant was issued for his arrest, and Parole Agent Sean Finnegan undertook an investigation in order to locate Moreno and take him into custody. Agent Finnegan, assisted by deputies of the US Marshals Service, attempted to execute the arrest warrant to an address believing that it was most likely Moreno’s place of residence. But the residence was actually that of Moreno's half-brother, appellant’s Angel Romero, and Romero's wife. The agents did not find Moreno in the residence. However, upon searching the basement, the agents observed a large number of plants that appeared to be marijuana. Based upon this information, police officers obtained and executed a search warrant for the premises. Appellants filed identical pre-trial motions requesting suppression of the evidence obtained from the search of their residence. After reviewing the parties' briefs and conducting its own review of the applicable law, the suppression court held a second hearing which it granted appellants motions to suppress. Appellee, the Commonwealth, filed interlocutory appeals pursuant to Pa.R.A.P. 311(d), certifying that the suppression order substantially handicapped its prosecution of the cases. In a unanimous opinion, the Superior Court reversed the suppression court's order and remanded the case for trial. Appellants filed identical petitions for allowance of appeal with this Court, arguing that the Superior Court's opinion conflicts with one of their decided case and that the Superior Court erred in upsetting the suppression court's factual finding that Agent Finnegan did not have permission to enter appellants home.
Was the search and seizure of appellants home reasonable?
The court ruled that the superior court erred in reversing the suppression court's order granting defendants' motion to suppress and in remanding the case for trial because, although a warrant had been issued for a parolee's arrest, the parole agent's entry and search of the home of defendants, third parties unconnected to the parolee's offense, violated the Fourth Amendment as law enforcement entry into a home had to be authorized by a warrant reflecting a magisterial determination of probable cause to search that home, whether by a separate search warrant or contained within the arrest warrant itself. However, although there was no reason to believe that the arrest warrant for the parolee in defendants' case reflected a probable cause determination, the case was remanded to allow appellee the opportunity to introduce the arrest warrant to the suppression court for consideration.