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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Lauter - 57 F.3d 212 (2d Cir. 1995)

Rule:

The proper inquiry for determining whether the police have authority to enter the suspect's home to effectuate an arrest warrant is whether there is a reasonable belief that the suspect resides at the place to be entered to execute an arrest warrant and whether the officers have reason to believe that the suspect is present. The "reasonable belief" standard may require less justification then the more familiar probable cause test.

Facts:

Agents obtained warrants to arrest defendant and to search his residence. The back of the search warrant listed the address generally and did not specify defendant's apartment number. Agents learned from a confidential informant that defendant had moved to a basement apartment in the residence. Agents entered the apartment and arrested defendant in the first room. In the back room, an agent observed the stock of a shotgun protruding from underneath the bed while conducting a security sweep. Defendant was tried for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 922(g)(1). The district court denied his motion to suppress the evidence, and defendant was convicted. On appeal, defendant argued that warrants did not specify his address and that the weapon was discovered in a warrantless search, rather than a protective sweep. Furthermore, the defendant argued that even if the agents were lawfully in his apartment, the district court should have suppressed the firearm as it was recovered during an impermissibly broad protective sweep.

Issue:

Was the arrest conducted by the officers, who were equipped with a warrant that did not specify defendant’s apartment number, lawful?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court held that the arrest warrant in question authorized entry into the basement apartment, as the agents had reason to believe that defendant was residing therein; and as such, the arrest was lawful. On the issue of protective sweep, the Court held that it was not overbroad, as the agent was justified in looking between the bed and the wall because a person could have been hiding there.

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