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Law School Case Brief

Maryland v. Buie - 494 U.S. 325, 110 S. Ct. 1093 (1990)


The Fourth Amendment permits a properly limited protective sweep in conjunction with an in-home arrest when the searching officer possesses a reasonable belief based on specific and articulable facts that the area to be swept harbors an individual posing a danger to those on the arrest scene. 


Police officers investigating an armed robbery committed by two men, one of whom had been wearing a red running suit, obtained arrest warrants for two suspects, including respondent Jerome Edward Buie, and executed one of the warrants at Buie's house. The officers entered the house and arrested Buie when he emerged from the basement. An officer then conducted a protective sweep of the basement, purportedly to see if any other person was there, and saw a red running suit in plain view. The running suit was like the one worn in the robbery for which Buie was arrested. At trial in Maryland state court, Buie's motion to suppress the running suit was denied, and it was introduced into evidence. Buie was convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon and using a handgun in the commission of a felony. On appeal, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland affirmed the trial court's denial of Buie's motion to suppress. The Court of Appeals of Maryland, however, reversed, stating that: (1) to justify a protective sweep of a home, the government must show that there was probable cause to believe that a serious and demonstrable potentiality for danger existed, and; (2) the prosecution did not satisfied that requirement. Maryland was granted a writ of certiorari.


Was the protective sweep of Buie's basement valid?




The Supreme Court of the United States vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals of Maryland and remanded the case to that court for further proceedings. The Court ruled that arresting officers were permitted to take reasonable steps to ensure their safety after, and during, the arrest, and that interest was sufficient to outweigh the possible intrusion on an individual's Fourth Amendment interests. In Buie's case, the Court found that no search warrant was required and that officers could, as a precautionary matter and without probable cause or reasonable suspicion, look in spaces immediately adjoining the place of arrest from which an attack could be immediately launched. Beyond that, the Court held that there had to be articulable facts which, taken together with the rational inferences from those facts, would warrant a reasonably prudent officer in believing that the area to be swept harbored an individual posing a danger.

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