Supreme Court doubtful on warrantless police detention
WASHINGTON — The US Supreme Court showed skepticism Thursday of the government’s argument that police can follow and arrest a suspect while waiting for a search warrant, even far from the premises.
The case involves a man from Long Island, New York who was sentenced to 30 years in prison on drug and weapons charges. Chunon Bailey was detained about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from his residence while police searched his home and found weapons, ammunition and drugs.
Bailey says police violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, and requires a warrant to be sanctioned and supported by probable cause.
Both liberal and conservative judges indicated they did not want to expand police powers that already grant authorities the right to detain any suspect tied to premises being searched under warrant.
“What you’re arguing for is a special rule which says once you have a warrant that this place can be searched, you can seize anybody — you can seize not only anybody there in order to protect the police, but anybody connected with the place,” Justice Antonin Scalia told Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Wall.
“And that is so contrary to what seems to me the theory of the Fourth Amendment that I am very reluctant to extend our cases any further than they already exist.”
Sonia Sotomayor, with the liberal wing of the court, was also reluctant to authorize arrests “merely for purposes of investigation without any reasonable suspicion.”
In 1981, the court ruled in Michigan v. Summers that police could detain people without suspicion during a search in order to prevent them from harming officers.
But in the Bailey case, a lower court said detentions should be extended beyond the place being searched.
The high court is due to rule on the case next year.