Friday, May 18, 2012

Community Caretaking Function: another exception to the warrant requirement?

US v. Laudermilt:  In this appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s decision to grant the defendant’s motion to suppress; the government filed this interlocutory appeal. The defendant, Laudermilt, was indicted for being a felon in possession. Defendant argued that the police seized the gun during an illegally protracted protective sweep. The district court believed that the police exceeded the proper scope of a legal protective sweep and granted the defendant’s motion to suppress.

The Fourth Circuit analyzed the facts here, and decided that the district court got it wrong, finding that the police had a community caretaking function which permitted them to remain in the residence without a warrant while the protective sweep was ongoing, and after it concluded. The weapon was found after the police returned the defendant’s fourteen-year-old brother to the kitchen from outside where the defendant had been taken into custody, and questioned the teenager as to the location of the firearm. The Fourth Circuit concluded that the officers’ actions here were consistent with the Fourth Amendment.

DISCLAIMER: the author of this blog post is also counsel in this case.

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