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United States v. Smith

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division

May 28, 2019




         Defendant is charged with unlawfully opposing or resisting a government employee in the performance of their official duties by forcibly resisting lawful detention by a military police officer. Information 1, ECF No. 1 (citing 18 U.S.C. 111(a)(1)). On April 11, 2019, she filed a motion to suppress (ECF No. 9) alleging she was arrested in her home without a warrant and either her consent to enter the home or exigent circumstances being present to authorize the arresting officers' warrantless entry. Mot. to Suppress 1, ECF No. 9. The Government responded by asserting that Defendant's husband-and co-occupant of the home-gave officers his consent to enter the home and that sufficient exigent circumstances existed to authorize the officers' entrance of the home without a warrant to arrest Defendant. Resp. to Mot. to Suppress 7, ECF No. 11. The Court held a hearing on Defendant's motion on May 8, 2019.


         The evidence at the hearing establishes that on the evening of December 8, 2018, at approximately 10:00 p.m., Fort Benning police officers received a call alerting them to a physical domestic incident at 113 A Butts St.-Defendants' home. Hr'g Tr. 10:28. Upon arriving at the residence, Lt. William Maynard and Officer Thomas Lynn observed Patrick Rush, who identified himself as Defendant's husband, bleeding significantly from his nose in front of the house. Hr'g Tr. 10:28. Mr. Rush, in response to the officers' inquiry, informed them he had been stricken in the face by his wife and that she was inside the marital home. Hr'g Tr. 10:28-29. Lt. Maynard testified that Mr. Rush said his wife was inside the home and that officers could “go get her” or words to that effect. Hr'g Tr. 10:30. There was no evidence at the hearing that Mr. Rush did not affirmatively consent to the officers' entry into his home. Officers considered the scene “active” and were told by neighbors that Defendant had been seen hitting her husband outside the home. Hr'g Tr. 10:29-30. When Lt. Maynard and others approached the home, Defendant refused to answer the door and turned on loud music. Hr'g Tr. 10:30.

         Lt. William Maynard was convinced that someone was in the house and refusing to answer the door, so went to the rear of the home to see if he could identify exactly who was inside. Hr'g Tr. 10:30-31. From there, he saw the Defendant and assessed her as being in an “agitated state.” Hr'g Tr. 10:31. Lt. Maynard then knocked on the home's rear door and Defendant answered. Hr'g Tr. 10:31. Defendant told officers to leave, and when Lt. Maynard told Defendant she needed to come with the officers, she withdrew into the home and forcibly resisted apprehension. Hr'g Tr. 10:31.


         “It is a basic principle of Fourth Amendment law that searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable.” Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 586 (1980). Indeed, unwarranted entry into the home is the “chief evil” which the Fourth Amendment is directed at combatting. Id. Accordingly, the Fourth Amendment “does not permit an officer to cross this constitutional line and forcibly remove a citizen from his home absent an exigency or consent.” McClish v. Nugent, 483 F.3d 1231, 1242 (11th Cir. 2007).

         The Eleventh Circuit has established five factors that indicate the presence of exigent circumstances justifying home invasion in order to make an arrest:

1) the gravity or violent nature of the offense with which the suspect is to be charged;
2) a reasonable belief that the suspect is armed;
3) probable cause to believe that the suspect committed the crime;
4) strong reason to believe that the suspect is in the premises being entered;
5) a likelihood that delay could cause the escape of the suspect or the destruction of essential evidence, or jeopardize the safety of officers or the public.

U.S. v. Standridge, 810 F.2d 1034, 1037 (11th Cir. 1987). In applying these factors, courts consider whether “the facts known at the time would lead a reasonable, experienced agent to believe that exigent circumstances exist.” U.S. v. Burch, 466 Fed.Appx. 772, 774 (11th Cir. 2012) (citing U.S. v. Reid, 69 F.3d 1109, 1113 (11th Cir. 1995)). Whether relying on consent or the exigent circumstances exception, “an officer who conducts a warrantless search or seizure ...

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