Payton v. New York
445 U.S. 573, 100 S. Ct. 1371, 63 L. Ed.2d 639 (1980)

  • The police suspected Payton of murdering somebody. They showed up at his apartment to arrest him. When he didn’t answer the door, the police broke in. He was not at home, but the police found a bullet shell lying in plain view, which they seized into evidence.
    • The police did not have an arrest warrant, nor did they have a warrant to search the apartment.
  • Payton later turned himself in and was charged with murder.
  • The Trial Court convicted Payton of murder. He appealed.
    • Payton argued that since the police did not have a warrant, their entry into his house was a violation of the 4th Amendment, and therefore the bullet shell should have been excluded from evidence.
  • In a different case, the police wanted to arrest Riddick for armed robbery. They came to his house, knocked, and his son opened the door. The police entered the house and arrested Riddick. They searched the apartment and found a pile of drugs that were not in plain view. Riddick was charged with drug possession.
    • The police did not have an arrest warrant or a warrant to search the apartment.
  • The Trial Court convicted Riddick of drug possession. He appealed.
    • Riddick argued that the search of his apartment after his arrest was a violation of his 4th Amendment right to privacy, since the police had no warrant, nor probable cause to perform the search.
    • The prosecution argued that the search was valid because the police are allowed to search ‘the person and the immediate area’ when they make a lawful arrest.
  • The New York Supreme Court combined the cases, and upheld both convictions. Payton and Riddick appealed.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed and overturned the convictions.
    • The US Supreme Court found that since the police did not have a warrant to enter the suspects’ homes, the searches were unconstitutional.
    • The Court found that either an arrest warrant or a search warrant would have been sufficient to enter the apartment, but in these cases the police didn’t have any warrants at all.
      • “For 4th Amendment purposes, an arrest warrant founded on probable cause implicitly carries with it the limited authority to enter a dwelling in which the suspect lives when there is reason to believe the suspect is within.”
      • The Court noted that in both cases, the police had ample time to get an arrest warrant.
      • The Court also suggested that if there were exigent circumstances that required the police to enter an apartment in an emergency, then that might be an exception to the warrant requirement, but the prosecution wasn’t making the argument that there were exigent circumstances in Payton and Riddick’s arrests.
  • In a dissent, it was argued that under the old common law, it was legal to enter a person’s home to make an arrest as long as they were suspected of committing a felony, the police followed the knock-and-announce rule, it was during daylight hours, and they had probable cause to believe that the person was home.
    • The dissent argued that should be enough protection. No arrest warrant should be required.
    • The dissent argued that since the allowed search pursuant to an arrest is much more limited in scope, if the police really wanted to search the place they would certainly get a search warrant, because otherwise they’d risk missing valuable evidence.
  • The basic rule in this case is that if the police want to enter a home, they must have a warrant, regardless of whether they are coming to search, or they are coming to make an arrest.
    • Unless exigent circumstances are present.
    • The reasoning is that there is a danger the police could use a rule permitting warrantless entry as a pretext for justifying an otherwise invalid warrantless search.
  • Note that an arrest warrant permits a much more limited search than a search warrant does (aka a search incident to a lawful arrest (SILA)). With an arrest warrant, the police are only allowed to search the person and the immediate area around the person, as well as seize things that are in plain view. Thus, if the person is standing at the front door, the police can’t search anything beyond the foyer.