SailorsAllen Law

Extreme Vetting of Overnight Guests

On February 15, 2017, the MNSC weighed in on the police needing a search warrant to come into your house to arrest one of your guests. State v. deLottinville, (A15-1481).  Their decision indicates that you should do your own extreme vetting of your guests.   Here are the facts, a lady with a french sounding name was arrested for possession of meth and storing meth paraphernalia in the presence of a child.  She was given conditions of release that involved random testing.  She failed a test and the State got a warrant.  Five days later, law enforcement got a hot tip that she was in her boyfriend’s apartment.   He lived in an apartment in the lower level of his parents’ house.  Don’t say he hasn’t moved out.  The officers arrived and spoke to the mother/landlord.  Another office looked through a glass patio door and saw the Frenchie.  He opened an unlocked door and arrested her.   While arresting her, the officer saw marijuana and a bong on the countertops.   The officers obtained a search warrant for the apartment and found more drugs and she was charged with a new crime.  She moved to suppress the drugs.  The DC agreed but the COA reversed citing the Eighth Circuit’s opinion in United States v. Clifford, which held that a guest in a home does not have a greater expectation of privacy than the homeowner under the 4th amendment.   The case did not rule on whether the big dog had an expectation of privacy.   The MNSC reviewed the case to see if the US Constitution of the MN required the evidence be suppressed.

Both sides agreed that an overnight guest such as deLottinville had a legitimate expectation of privacy.  Minnesota v. Olson, 495 U.S. 91, 98 (1990).  So if you sleepover you have rights, which include suing your host if they put your hand in some water to attempt to get you pee in your pants.  In Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573 (1980), the Court announced that police may enter into “dwelling in which suspect lives” to execute an arrest warrant.   Keep in mind, the language used  with “arrest warrant.”  Arrest warrants are used when an officer sees somebody and finds out that person has a warrant.   Typically, happens in a car when that person is on their way to turn themselves into custody.   So after Payton, instead of getting a search warrant all the police need is an arrest warrant.   In another case, Steagald, the police, armed with an arrest warrant entered a third party’s home to arrest a guest. Steagald v. United States, 451 U.S. 204 (1981).  While searching for the guest the police found incriminating evidence against the homeowner.   The Court suppressed the evidence because an arrest warrant does not contain “a showing of probable cause to believe that the legitimate object of a search is located in a particular place. Id. at 213.   The Court limited the ruling to “a person not named in the warrant.” Id. at 212.

So Payton, an overnight guest with an arrest warrant has no 4th amendment claim, but in Steagald, a homeowner not named in a warrant has a 4th amendment when illegal things (like Bengal tigers) are found in their house and they are there to arrest a guest with an arrest warrant.  Bottom line, if you are named in the warrant, you lose.   The MNSC agreed with Payton, by essentially signing “you lose if you are named in the warrant,” to the tune of “nationwide is on your side.” For support, they cited ten circuit courts with nine of them holding that a guest’s Fourth Amendment rights are not violated by police entry into another’s home to arrest a guest under a lawful arrest warrant.   The MNSC was cognizant that they were taking a wrecking ball to privacy rights of the homeowner.  “We understand that a homeowner might well be surprised and distressed to learn that police may enter at any time to arrest a guest.” See Steagald, 451 U.S. at 213.  The Court said that didn’t happen here so who cares?

There was a dissent, which described a scenario that would keep grandparents up at night if grandparents read footnotes in Supreme Court opinions.   I will write that footnote here.

“Consider, for example, grandparents who invite their college-aged grandson and several of his friends to stay for Thanksgiving.  The grandparents and the grandson do not know that one of his friends has an outstanding arrest warrant, but a third party alerts the police that the suspect is present in the grandparents’ house.  Under the majority’s holding, by authority of an arrest warrant, the police may enter the grandparents’ home without knocking, even during Thanksgiving dinner.”

Boom.  That is how you dissent.  No one wants to disrupt a grandparents’ Thanksgiving dinner with a swat team storming the white picket fence and arresting some college kid who goes by the street name of “grass.”  Thanksgiving would be ruined, here is what the law says:  If “grass” has some drugs in plain view in his room those drugs are not being suppressed.   However, if the grandparents have stolen cutlery from the casino from a dinner after gambling following a bad beat, that will get suppressed.   So if you don’t want to the police storming the gates like a scene out of Game of Thrones, vet your guests.