33. If I'm Arrested Outside My Place of Residence, Can the Police Go Inside to Look for Accomplices?

  Sometimes. Police officers can make "protective sweeps" following an arrest. (Maryland v. Buie, U.S. Sup. Ct. 1990.) When making a protective sweep, police officers can walk through a residence and make a "cursory visual inspection" of places where an accomplice might be hiding. For example, police officers could look under beds and inside closets. To justify making a protective sweep, police officers must have a reasonable belief that a dangerous accomplice might be hiding inside a residence. If a sweep is lawful, the police can lawfully seize contraband or evidence of crime that is in plain view.

  Case Example: Police officers have warrants to arrest Fox and Mulder for armed bank robbery. Fox and Mulder live together in a house. Officers Spock and Kirk stake out the house and arrest Fox coming up the driveway. With Fox in custody, Spock goes into the house to conduct a protective sweep. Spock goes into a bedroom, lifts up a mattress and seizes a gun hidden between the mattress and the box spring. Witnesses later identify the gun as the one used in the bank robbery.

  Question: Did Officer Spock lawfully seize the gun?

  Answer: No. Because Fox and Mulder live together, Fox was arrested outside the house and they were suspected of committing a violent crime, Spock probably had the right to make a protective sweep to look for Mulder. However, Spock had no right to lift up the mattress, because nothing suggested that Mulder might be hiding under it. After making sure that Mulder wasn't in the house, the officers should have secured the house and gotten a search warrant.

  34. If the Police Properly Arrest Me in My Home, Can They Also Search the Home?

  They can to a certain extent. They may search the person arrested and the area within that person's "immediate control." Immediate control is interpreted broadly to include any place a suspect may lunge to obtain a weapon. If the alleged crime is particularly violent, or if the police have reason to believe other armed suspects may be in the residence, the police may do a "protective sweep" to search in any place such accomplices may be hiding. Also, while they are making a lawful arrest or protective sweep, the police may typically search and seize anything apparently related to criminal activity that is in "plain view."