In one recent California case, the Courts say no. In that case, occurring in a jurisdiction outside of Torrance, the accused was arrested and handcuffed outside his home based on a reported domestic violence incident earlier in the day. The accused asked his roommate to retrieve shoes and keys for him. A police officer accompanied the roommate into the house “for officer safety reasons.” While they were in the home’s bedroom, the police officer observed drugs and illegal fireworks in plain view. During subsequent searches based on consent and a search warrant, the police found more drugs and other items. The accused pleaded no contest to a number of criminal charges based on this evidence after a motion to throw out the case on a violation of his rights was denied.
The Appeals Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment permits a limited protective sweep in conjunction with an in-home arrest, and in some instances an arrest outside the home, when the searching officer possesses a reasonable suspicion based on specific and articulable facts that the area to be swept harbors a dangerous person. In this case, the District Attorney did not show that the protective sweep doctrine justified entering accused home. There was no information aside from a generalized concern for officer safety. The evidence showed only that appellant was handcuffed posing no danger. The crime being investigated occurred hours earlier. The accused roommate had no outstanding warrants, had no weapons on him, and there was no evidence suggesting he was a danger. There was no evidence that police were aware of ongoing criminal activity in the house or had information that another person was in the house. As a result, evidence
found in the defendant’s bedroom was the product of an unlawful search and should have been suppressed. The Court ruled the District Attorney did not show that the roommate’s consent to search was lawful and evidence located during this search should have been
suppressed as well. These types of searches and arrests occur quite frequently in Torrance and other cities when the police show up on Domestic Violence calls, if you have been the victim of an unlawful search contact a lawyer immediately to discuss your options.