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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Veal - 453 F.3d 164 (3d Cir. 2006)


An arrest warrant founded on probable cause implicitly carries with it the limited authority to enter a dwelling in which the suspect lives when there is reason to believe the suspect is within. Officers are required to have a reasonable belief the arrestee (1) lived in the residence, and (2) is within the residence at the time of entry. To determine whether the police had probable cause to believe a suspect was residing and present in a home, courts apply a "common sense approach" and consider the facts and circumstances within the knowledge of the law enforcement agents, when viewed in the totality.


On January 2003, Philadelphia detectives interviewed a nephew of a murder victim. The nephew told the detectives that they had been selling drugs supplied by appellant Samuel Veal. The nephew also gave the detectives a description of Samuel's car. When the detectives ran a background check on Samuel, they discovered he had two open arrest warrants. The parole violator warrant was issued after the parole officer learned that Samuel was no longer residing with his mother as required by the conditions of his parole. The parole warrant identified Veal's wife, Tina Veal, as a possible lead. The detectives went to Tina's residence and saw the vehicle described by the nephew parked near the house. The detectives, along with other uniformed police officers, arrested Samuel inside Tina's residence after 40 minutes of negotiation with Samuel. Samuel was indicted for being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 922(g)(1). At trial in federal district court, he moved to suppress all evidence that was seized by police following the arrest. The motion was denied. Thereafter, Samuel entered a conditional plea of guilty, reserving his right to challenge the denial of his suppression motion. Samuel appealed, arguing that the police did not have probable cause to believe that he was located and residing at the residence of his wife; thus his arrest inside that residence was unlawful and the evidence seized could not be used against him.


Was the arrest of Samuel within his wife's home lawful?




The appellate court did not address Samuel's claim that he had a privacy interest in his wife's residence, but rather ruled that, even assuming he had such an interest, the police had probable cause to believe he was residing at and present in the residence. Facts including the parole violation warrant indicated that Samuel was no longer living with his mother and that his wife was a possible lead, and a car Samuel was reported to have driven was registered to his wife and was parked near her home, gave the police officers probable cause to believe Samuel resided at the home. Therefore, the court ruled, the arrest of Samuel was lawful, and the evidence seized pursuant to the arrest was properly admitted into evidence. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

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