Payton consists of two appeals challenging the constitutionality of a New York statute authorizing police to enter a suspect’s home to make routine felony arrests without a warrant. In both cases, the police entered the suspects’ homes with probable cause, but without consent, to make warrantless arrests and discovered incriminating evidence. Both defendants argued that the evidence should be suppressed because the statute authorizing the search was unconstitutional. The trial court upheld the statute, and the appellate court agreed, distinguishing between the intrusions posed by warrantless home searches and warrantless home arrests. The Supreme Court reversed (five to three), holding that the statute violated the Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness requirement.
Writing for the majority, Justice Stevens stated, ‘‘In terms that apply equally to seizures of property and to seizures of persons, the Fourth Amendment has drawn a firm line at the entrance to the house.’’ He examined the historical treatment of warrantless home arrests, noting that only one state other than New York had found such arrests constitutional. He reasoned that the same concerns present in warrantless home searches apply to warrantless home arrests, and they should therefore receive the same Fourth Amendment protections. The dissents disagreed with the majority’s analysis of the Fourth Amendment’s text and history and questioned the Court’s elevation of the form of warrants over the substance of probable cause. Payton’s holding was expanded in Steagald v. U.S, 451 U.S. 204 (1981) to require arrest warrants for arrests at third-party residences when the police have reason to believe the suspect is there.
SARA E. LINDENBAUM
References and Further Reading
Cases and Statutes Cited