When may the police enter a home without a warrant? May the government seize personal property and use it to convict its owner? Both questions arose in Hayden.
Witnesses saw an armed robber fleeing a crime scene and followed him to a home. While the robber was inside, police were notified and arrived within minutes. They found Hayden inside feigning sleep; they also found guns, ammunition, and clothing that matched those worn by the robber. These items were used to convict Hayden.
The Supreme Court held that under the Fourth Amendment a warrant was not required because the ‘‘exigencies’’ of the situation made it impractical to get one. A delay to get a warrant here could have endangered the lives of the officers and others. This ‘‘exigent circumstances’’ exception to the warrant requirement remains the law today.
The Court also held that the seizure of Hayden’s clothing was reasonable. The Court rejected a Fourth Amendment ‘‘mere evidence’’ rule—which it had previously endorsed in Gouled v. United States (1921)— that stated the government could not seize personal property to use as evidence unless it was contraband or the fruit or instrumentality of a crime. The amendment protects privacy, the Court explained, and property interests were neither necessary nor sufficient for protecting privacy. The Court rejected the propertybased conception of the Fourth Amendment it had previously endorsed in Boyd v. United States (1886), which would make personal property off limits even with a warrant.
MICHAEL S. PARDO
Cases and Statutes Cited
See also Arrest without a Warrant; Plain View; Probable Cause; Seizures; Warrantless Searches