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Illinois v. McArthur

Citation. Illinois v. McArthur, 531 U.S. 326, 121 S. Ct. 946, 148 L. Ed. 2d 838, 69 U.S.L.W. 4095, 2001 Cal. Daily Op. Service 1442, 2001 Daily Journal DAR 1805, 2001 Colo. J. C.A.R. 964, 14 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 71 (U.S. Feb. 20, 2001)
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Brief Fact Summary.

The police refused to allow an individual to enter his home after being informed by his wife that there was dope in the home.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The restriction at issue was reasonable, and hence lawful based on various circumstances including the fact that the police officers had probable cause to believe that the home contained contraband, the contraband could have been destroyed, and the restraint was “both limited and tailored reasonably to secure law enforcement needs while protecting privacy interests.”


Tera McArthur (“Ms. McArthur”) had two police officers accompany her to the trailer where she lived. Ms. McArthur lived with her husband Charles McAarthur (“Mr. McArthur”) and she wanted to remove her belongings. Mr. McArthur was present at the trailer. After gathering her belongings, she told the police officers that she saw her husband put some dope under the couch. One of the officers then asked Mr. McArthur if he could search the trailer. Mr. McArthur refused to give his consent. The other officer then went with Ms. McArthur to obtain a warrant. The officer remaining behind refused to allow Mr. McArthur into the trailer unless he was accompanied by a police officer. He entered the trailer two or three times while the officer watched. After a warrant was obtained, both of the officers searched the trailer and found marijuana and certain drug paraphernalia.
Mr. McArthur was then arrested for unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia and marijuana. Mr. McArthur moved to suppress the drugs and the accompanying paraphernalia arguing that they were fruits of an unlawful search and seizure. The trial court granted the motion to suppress. The Illinois Supreme Court denied the State’s petition for an appeal.


Whether the police violated an individual’s rights when they refused to allow him to enter his home for two hours so as to obtain a search warrant?


No. The court began by observing that there are certain situations where a warrant is not required. “When faced with special law enforcement needs, diminished expectations of privacy, minimal intrusions, or the like, the Court has found that certain general, or individual, circumstances may render a warrantless search or seizure reasonable.”
The search here was reasonable for four reasons. First, “the police had probable cause to believe that [Mr.] McArthur’s trailer home contained evidence of a crime and contraband, namely, unlawful drugs.” Second, “the police had good reason to fear that, unless restrained, Mr. McArthur would destroy the drugs before they could return with a warrant. Third, “the police made reasonable efforts to reconcile their law enforcement needs with the demands of personal privacy.” Finally, “the police imposed the restraint for a limited period of time, namely, two hours.”
Further, the court observed “[t]emporarily keeping a person from entering his home, a consequence whenever police stop a person on the street, is considerably less intrusive than police entry into the home itself in order to make a warrantless arrest or conduct a search.”
Additionally, “the need to preserve evidence of a ‘jailable’ offense was sufficiently urgent or pressing to justify the restriction upon entry that the police imposed.”


It is interesting to read this case alongside [Welsh v. Wisconsin], which distinguished between jailable and non-jailable defenses.

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