Police officers making an in-home arrest may face danger from other, unknown, persons present who could attack the officers during or after the arrest. Consequently, officers in such circumstances usually conduct a cursory inspection of the premises to ensure their safety. This is referred to as a ‘‘protective sweep.’’ Historically, this sweep included the entire structure in which the arrest took place.
In Maryland v. Buie the U.S. Supreme Court placed some restrictions on the police protective sweep authority. The Court held that police officers may, incident to an arrest in a home, conduct a limited protective sweep of any areas ‘‘immediately adjacent’’ to where the arrest takes place without probable cause or even reasonable suspicion that an attack is imminent. This protective sweep was justified as incident to the arrest, per the rule developed in Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969). Additionally, the Court held that, in order for police officers to conduct a more extensive search of the entire residence, they must have a ‘‘reasonable and articulable’’ suspicion that someone may be hiding there.
Maryland v. Buie gives officers the ability to protect themselves and others from potential danger during an arrest while at the same time preserving Fourth Amendment rights to freedom from unreasonable searches. The Court used the Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), reasonable suspicion test to place some limits on the police authority to rummage throughout a home simply because an arrest occurred there. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court neglected to define ‘‘immediately adjacent,’’ leaving this to lower courts to sort out.
VALERIE R. BELL
Cases and Statutes Cited
See also Probable Cause; Search (General Definition); Stop and Frisk; Warrantless Search