Arrest Following Forcible Entry into a Home

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When police or private citizens forcibly enter a residence, what are the warrant rules?

Michigan statute MCL 764.21 states that a private person or police officer may forcibly enter a residence where a person who committed a felony is located or reasonably believed to be located if a felony is committed in their presence. A police officer may also enter a residence if they have an arrest warrant. The arresting person must announce their purpose and be refused admittance to the home. However, courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have limited the statute’s scope. Evidence seized during an illegal arrest following forcible entry into a person’s home is subject to suppression.

In the case of Payton v. New York, 100 S.Ct. 1371 (1980), the United States Supreme Court stated: “The Fourth Amendment…prohibits the police from making a warrantless and nonconsensual entry into a suspect’s home to make a routine felony arrest.” This is the rule even if a state like Michigan has a law that says entry is otherwise permissible. Of course, private citizens do not obtain arrest warrants, so they are likewise prohibited. Police are required to get an arrest warrant authorized by a judge if there are no “exigent circumstances.” Exigent circumstances mean emergency circumstances; for example, where the public is imminently endangered, or the police are in “hot pursuit” of a suspect, such as where a person has led the police on a car chase and runs into their home to complete the escape from the police. Another common form of exigent circumstances is where the police believe someone will destroy evidence if they wait for a warrant.

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Entry and Arrest by a Private Citizen Following Forcible Entry into a Home

The phrase “private citizen” can mean either a true private citizen (not a police officer) or a police officer acting outside their jurisdiction. If an officer is out of his jurisdiction, they have no sworn authority in that location, so they are considered a private citizen. Determining whether the individual who made an arrest was a private citizen or law enforcement officer is essential when a judge examines an arrest following forcible entry into a home.

The case of Bright v. Ailshie, 465 Mich. 770 (2002), is an example of this rule. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that a private citizen, here a bail bondsman, did not have the authority to arrest unless the arresting citizen knew the suspect had committed a felony. Probable cause to believe they committed a felony is not enough. The fact that a warrant is outstanding is probable cause for police to make an arrest, but this does not give a private citizen authority to arrest, and it certainly does not permit entry into a residence for that purpose.

Does the same rule apply to misdemeanor arrests following forcible entry into a person’s home?

The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that MCL 764.21 does not permit entry into a residence for a warrantless misdemeanor arrest. The Payton rule applies when the person is a misdemeanor suspect: a warrant is necessary.

Third-party residences and other locations

If a third party owns a residence and the police have probable cause to believe a suspect committed a crime and know a suspect is inside, the police must obtain the owner’s consent to enter. An arrest warrant alone is not enough to forcibly enter.

This rule applies equally to motels and hotels. In the Payton U.S. Supreme Court case, the Court held that even if the police have probable cause to arrest and know the suspect is in a particular house, apartment, or motel, they may not enter unless “exigent circumstances” exist or there is consent. Exigent circumstances are situations where someone might destroy evidence if police wait for a warrant or someone’s life or health is in jeopardy. And, a motel or hotel employee does not have the authority to allow police into a rented room. Even if the police have a warrant, they may not enter a third party’s residence without exigent circumstances or consent of the person legally in control of the place the suspect is.

The test courts used in the past to decide if a warrant is needed was whether the suspect has a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the home or residence. Therefore, no warrant is necessary if police have probable cause to arrest and the suspect is out in public.

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If you believe the police, prosecutor, or a judge violated your constitutional rights and you want to see if the court should dismiss your charges, call LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. for a free consultation. We will take the time to talk with you, answer your questions, and address each of your concerns. If there is a way to help you, and there almost always is, we will find it. If it appears that police officers violated your constitutional rights when they forcibly entered your home, or for any other reason, we will fight to have your case thrown out of court and the illegally seized evidence suppressed.

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