UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, v. ERIC JACKSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.  No. 08-2295.

Eric Jackson was sentenced to a 96 month term of imprisonment for possession of a firearm by a previously-convicted felon.

I. BACKGROUND

Eric Jackson was arrested by the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department based on an outstanding warrant for aggravated battery. After unsuccessfully attempting to locate Jackson the police received an anonymous tip that Jackson had been staying at his father's girlfriend's apartment.

The police arrived at the apartment at approximately 8:30 in the morning, and were invited into the vestibule by the primary tenant.  Without entering the apartment, the officers  showed Jackson's picture to Tyneesha Barbary, who was sitting nearby.  When the officers asked Barbary if Jackson was in the apartment, she started to cry and nodded her head. The officers subsequently entered the apartment and followed Barbary to a back bedroom where Jackson was sleeping. After handcuffing Jackson, the officers searched the immediate area and found a pistol within grabbing distance under the blanket on which he had been sleeping.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Jackson's Arrest

As a threshold matter, we reject Jackson's argument that the police needed a search warrant as well as an arrest warrant in order to enter Joseph's apartment in order to arrest him. "[F]or Fourth 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." Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 602 (1980).

Nearly every court of appeals to consider this issue has held that law enforcement officers do not need a search warrant in addition to an arrest warrant to enter a third party's residence in order to effect an arrest. See United States v. Agnew, 407 F.3d 193, 197 (3d Cir. 2005); United States v. Kaylor, 877 F.2d 658, 663 (8th Cir. 1989); Underwood, 717 F.2d at 483-84 (9th Cir. 1983); United States v. Buckner, 717 F.2d 297, 299-300 (6th Cir. 1983).

Although officers do not need a search warrant to execute an arrest warrant in a third party's home, they do need some basis for believing that the suspect is actually present in the home. This court has not addressed what degree of suspicion officers need in order to enter a third party's home to execute an arrest warrant. In Payton, the Supreme Court held that an arrest warrant "carries with it the limited authority to enter a dwelling when there is reason to believe the suspect is within." 445 U.S. at 602 (emphasis added).

Our sister circuits disagree about what "reasonable belief" actually entails and whether its meaning is different from probable cause.

By our count, three circuits have explicitly concluded that reasonable belief requires a lesser degree of knowledge than probable cause. See United States v. Thomas, 429 F.3d 282, 286 (D.C. Cir. 2005); Valdez v. McPheters, 172 F.3d 1220, 1227 n.5 (10th Cir. 1999); United States v. Lauter, 57 F.3d 212, 215 (2d Cir. 1995).  The courts in these cases conclude that the Supreme Court "used a phrase other than 'probable cause' because it meant something other than 'probable cause.' " Thomas, 429 F.3d at 286.

Four other circuits have disagreed, holding that "reasonable belief" amounts to the same thing as "probable cause." See United States v. Hardin, 539 F.3d 404, 416 n.6 (6th Cir. 2008); United States v. Barrera, 464 F.3d 496, 501 (5th Cir. 2006); United States v. Gorman, 314 F.3d 1105, 1111 (9th Cir. 2002); United States v. Magluta, 44 F.3d 1530, 1535 (11th Cir. 1995).

Were we to reach the issue, we might be inclined to adopt the view of the narrow majority of our sister circuits that "reasonable belief" is synonymous with probable cause. However, we need not decide whether "reasonable belief" requires probable cause or something less than probable cause because in the present case the police had enough evidence to easily satisfy a probable cause standard. The police received a tip that Jackson was staying at Joseph's apartment and that he would be there the following morning. When the police arrived at the apartment, they asked Jackson's girlfriend if Jackson was inside and she nodded yes and started crying. This was more than enough to lead a prudent person to believe that Jackson was inside the apartment when he or she entered.

AFFIRMED

For the full opinions visit the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Web Site.

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