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United States v. Allen

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

January 29, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
DENNIS B. ALLEN, JR., Defendant-Appellant. [*]

Argued December 5, 2013.

Dennis B. Allen, Jr., appeals from a judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont (Christina Reiss, Chief Judge) denying his motion to suppress physical evidence recovered and statements made following his warrantless arrest while he was standing inside the threshold of his home. The district court held that Allen's arrest did not violate the Fourth Amendment . We disagree, and VACATE the judgment of conviction, REVERSE the denial of the suppression motion, and REMAND the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

DAVID L. MCCOLGIN, Assistant Federal Public Defender, for Michael L. Desautels, Federal Public Defender for the District of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, for Defendant-Appellant.

WILLIAM B. DARROW, Assistant United States Attorney (Gregory L. Waples, Assistant United States Attorney, on the brief), for Tristram J. Coffin, United States Attorney for the District of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, for Appellee.

Before: SACK, LYNCH, and LOHIER, Circuit Judges. JUDGE LOHIER concurs in a separate opinion.

OPINION

Page 77

Gerard E. Lynch, Circuit Judge :

" [W]hen it comes to the Fourth Amendment, the home is first among equals." Florida v. Jardines, 133 S.Ct. 1409, 1414, 185 L.Ed.2d 495 (2013). At the Amendment's " very core stands the right of a man to retreat into his home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion." Silverman v. United States, 365 U.S. 505, 511, 81 S.Ct. 679, 5 L.Ed.2d 734 (1961). In Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 63 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980), the Supreme

Page 78

Court held that, in the absence of exigent circumstances, the Amendment prohibits law enforcement officials from making a warrantless and nonconsensual entry into a suspect's home to arrest him.

Defendant-appellant Dennis B. Allen, Jr., appeals from a judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont (Christina Reiss, Chief Judge ) convicting him, upon entry of a conditional guilty plea, of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The district court entered its judgment after denying Allen's motion to suppress statements and a gun obtained following a warrantless arrest by local police officers at the front door of his home. The district court concluded that although Allen was inside the threshold of his home when he was arrested, no Fourth Amendment violation occurred because the police were able to effect the arrest without crossing the threshold themselves.

This a liminal case, which presents a close line-drawing problem.[1] If the officers had gone into Allen's apartment without a warrant to effect the arrest, the arrest would violate the Constitution; if Allen had come out of the apartment into the street and been arrested there, no warrant would be required. We conclude that the protections of Payton are primarily triggered by the arrested person's location and do not depend on the location or conduct of the arresting officers. Because it is uncontested that Allen remained inside his home, and was in his home when the officers placed him under arrest, his warrantless arrest in the absence of exigent circumstances violated the Fourth Amendment. We therefore vacate the judgment of conviction, reverse the denial of the suppression motion, and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

BACKGROUND

I. Facts

The facts are not in dispute. On July 25 or 26, 2012, the Springfield, Vermont Police Department received a written complaint that on July 23, John Johnston had been assaulted by a man known to him only as " D.J." A Springfield police officer interviewed Johnston on July 26, and based on that interview, and the officer's prior experience, he concluded that " D.J." was in fact Allen.

On July 27, 2012, four Springfield police officers went to Allen's apartment with the " pre-formed plan . . . to arrest [him] for the alleged assault and process him . . . at the Springfield police station." J.A. 137.[2] Despite having nearly two days and ample probable cause,[3] the officers did not seek a warrant for Allen's arrest. Allen's apartment was located on the second and third floors of a three-story building that housed a hair salon on the first floor. The front door to Allen's apartment was on the street level, and led directly to a hallway and staircase to the second floor. Neither the entrance, the hallway, nor the staircase was shared by other tenants.

Page 79

After they arrived, the officers knocked on Allen's door. Allen heard the knock, and stepped onto his second-floor porch. One of the officers requested that Allen come down to speak with him; Allen complied. Allen opened the door to his apartment, and during the next five to six minutes that he spoke with the officers, he remained " inside the threshold" while the officers stood on the sidewalk. The district court noted that during the encounter, " [n]o weapons were drawn and the officers did not physically touch [Allen]." J.A. 137.

Allen told the officers that although he knew Johnston, he had not assaulted him, and had not seen him in several days. Explaining that Johnston had called him several times, Allen at one point handed the officers his cell phone so that they could view his call log. The officers looked at the phone, and returned it to Allen. The officers then told Allen that he would need to come down to the police station to be processed for the assault. In other words, he was under arrest. Allen, who had appeared at the door in his stocking feet, asked whether he could retrieve his shoes and inform his 12-year-old daughter, who was upstairs in the apartment, that he would be leaving with the officers. The officers advised Allen that he could not return upstairs unless they accompanied him, which they did.[4]

Once inside the apartment, one of the officers asked Allen whether he had anything in his pockets; Allen took out several items, including seven bags of marijuana. Officers also saw what appeared to be drug paraphernalia in plain view. Officers escorted Allen out of the apartment, where he was then handcuffed, placed in the police cruiser, and transported to the police station.

Based in part on the drug paraphernalia that they saw inside the apartment, as well as the bags of marijuana in Allen's pockets, the officers applied for and obtained a search warrant. While executing that warrant, the officers recovered, among other things, a hand gun and various drug paraphernalia. Prompted by the fruits of that search, federal agents later rearrested Allen on the federal charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Allen admitted to the agents that he possessed the firearm.

II. Prior Proceedings

After being indicted by a federal grand jury for his violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), Allen moved to suppress the firearm, and the statements he made, contending that both were fruits of a warrantless in-home arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment. A one-day hearing followed, at which Allen and one of the Springfield police officers who initially arrested him testified. After the hearing, the district court denied Allen's motion in a written opinion and order. United States v. Allen, No. 5:12-cr-130-1, 2013 WL 1736665 (D. Vt. Apr. 22, 2013).[5]

The district court cited California v. Hodari D.,499 U.S. 621, 626, 111 S.Ct. 1547, 113 L.Ed.2d 690 (1991) to conclude that Allen was arrested " while [he] was ...


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