from the United States District Court for the Middle District
of Florida D.C. Docket No. 6:15-cv-00807-PGB-DCI
ED CARNES, Chief Judge, NEWSOM, and SILER, [*] Circuit Judges.
NEWSOM, Circuit Judge:
officers interrupt what they reasonably believe to be a
residential burglary and detain two suspects just outside the
house. Having done so, can the officers thereafter lawfully
enter the home-without a warrant, and without further
suspicion of wrongdoing-to briefly search for additional
perpetrators and potential victims? We hold that they can. In
particular, we hold that the suspected burglary presents an
"exigent circumstance" that justifies a warrantless
entry and search.
springtime afternoon in 2011, Officer Todd Raible of the
Volusia (Florida) County Sheriff's Office was driving his
unmarked patrol car through a neighborhood that had been
experiencing a rash of daytime burglaries. As he drove,
Raible, a property-crimes investigator who knew all about the
recent uptick in theft, took note of a young man-later
identified as William Rivera-who was standing on the sidewalk
in front of the residence at 1127 West New York Avenue and
who appeared to be looking around nervously while talking on
a cell phone. Raible became suspicious of Rivera, who Raible
said "seemed anxious" and "kind of
hunched" as he paced up and down in front of the house.
Raible's suspicions deepened when, as he watched, Rivera
walked down a side street toward the back of the dwelling.
Raible observed Rivera approach the back door, he saw another
young man-later identified as Troy
Copeland-"huddling" nearby. Based on his
experience, Raible was convinced that Copeland was
positioning himself to act as a "lookout" while
Rivera broke into the house. Given everything he had seen,
Raible radioed for backup, describing the unfolding situation
as a "burglary in progress."
his own patrol car, Officer Jorge Carvajal heard and
responded to Raible's request for backup. Raible and
Carvajal met at a nearby gas station and quickly formulated a
plan for approaching the suspects. After talking to Carvajal,
Raible returned to the house, where Rivera and Copeland
remained near the back door; Raible parked his car and exited
with his gun drawn. Carvajal soon joined Raible and drew his
weapon as well, and the two officers ordered Rivera and
Copeland to the ground, where they placed them in
Rivera and Copeland were cuffed, Raible entered the
home's back door and stepped through a small vestibule to
a second door, which led to the home's interior and was
slightly ajar. Without crossing the threshold, Raible leaned
through the second door and shouted, "Sheriff's
office, come out if anybody's in there, sheriff's
office." Hearing no answer after about 10 seconds,
Raible went back outside.
and Carvajal then searched Rivera and Copeland and discovered
that Rivera had two kitchen knives in his pants pockets. The
knives were significant, Raible thought, because near the
handle on the house's back door he also observed pry
marks, which he believed to be both fresh and consistent with
having been made by knives. The officers asked Rivera and
Copeland for identification; neither ID listed 1127 West New
York Avenue as a home address. Given the indications that the
back door had recently been pried open using tools like the
knives found on Rivera and that each of the suspects' IDs
listed another home address, Raible and Carvajal concluded
that they had interrupted an ongoing burglary. At that point,
the officers formally arrested Rivera and Copeland.
officers soon arrived on the scene. Once they gathered in
sufficient number, Carvajal entered the home's main
structure along with Officers Kyle Bainbridge, Edward Hart,
and Julio Rodriguez to check (as each of the officers
explained) "for additional perpetrators or potential
victims." This second entry-which was the first into the
home's interior and which the officers described as a
"sweep"-lasted about four minutes. Importantly for
our purposes, during the second entry, the officers saw in
plain view what they believed to be marijuana and associated
immediately thereafter, Officers Carvajal, Bainbridge, and
Hart took their supervisor, Lieutenant Brian Henderson, into
the house to show him the marijuana and paraphernalia. This
third entry lasted about two minutes. After viewing the
suspected contraband, Henderson called the West Volusia
Narcotics Task Force to determine whether a search warrant
should be obtained for the remainder of the dwelling.
Henderson, Carvajal, Bainbridge, and Hart then re-entered the
house once again-for a fourth time-staying for a little more
than two minutes.
hour later, Cecelia Gregory, Montanez's mother and
co-owner of the house, showed up and (fifth entry) was
escorted inside by Henderson. An hour after that, task-force
investigators David Clay and David McNamara arrived and
(sixth) went into the home with Raible to view the marijuana
and drug paraphernalia.
on the contraband shown to him during the sixth entry,
McNamara swore out an affidavit in support of a search
warrant, which an assistant state attorney approved and a
circuit court judge then signed. Warrant in hand, the
officers subsequently conducted a full search of the house,
which yielded $18, 500 in U.S. currency as well as
miscellaneous drugs and drug paraphernalia.
turns out, the authorities never filed any charges against
Rivera, Copeland, or Montanez pertaining to the drugs or the
associated paraphernalia- apparently because they
couldn't figure out whose they were. It was later
determined, as well, that the money lawfully belonged to
Copeland, and Montanez sued the officers in state court.
After the officers removed the case to federal court, Rivera,
Copeland, and Montanez filed a multicount amended complaint
that alleged both state tort claims and (under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983) the following Fourth Amendment claims: Rivera
and Copeland brought unreasonable-seizure and false-arrest
claims against Raible, and Montanez brought unlawful-entry
and unreasonable-search claims against all of the officers.
After the district court dismissed the state-law and
false-arrest claims at the pleadings stage, the officers
moved for summary judgment on the remaining counts based on
qualified immunity. The district court granted Raible summary