POLICE MUST HAVE REASONABLE BELIEF THAT ARRESTEE IS HOME BEFORE ENTERING WITH AN ARREST WARRANT
On June 14, 2016, in the case of Commonwealth v. Moreno, the Worcester Superior Court ordered evidence suppressed after applying the rule set forth in Commonwealth v. Gentile, and concluding that the police officers did not have a reasonable belief, at the time they entered the home, that the person they were looking for was there, despite their reasonable belief that the person did in fact live there.
The rule, as set forth in Gentile, is that when executing an arrest warrant at a home, i.e., when attempting to enter a home to look for a person who’s arrest the police have a warrant for, the police must have a reasonable belief –supported by specific articulable facts – that the person is home, and that a good faith subjective belief is not sufficient.
An officer’s “belief must be supported by “specific articulable facts” that, based on the totality of circumstances, permit a reasonable inference that, at the time of entry, the defendant is in the premises.” Gentile. However, the mere fact that the entry occurs very early in the morning is often enough to permit a reasonable belief that the person is home, absent information indicating otherwise. Other sufficient indicia have included seeing a car belonging to the suspect parked at the home.
Where such reasonable belief is lacking, the entry into the home is unreasonable, and therefore in violation of the Fourth Amendment and Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, which prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures. The Court explained in Gentile that the requirement of a reasonable belief that the suspect is home “protects not only the subject of the warrant but all residents of the home from the needless invasion of the sanctity of their home,” which is important because “physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed,” and because, “[i]n the home, . . . all details are intimate details, because the entire area is held safe from prying government eyes.”
Attorney Kevin D. Quinlan