Alaska v. Myers

In Alaska v. Myers, 601 P.2d 239, 245-46 (Alaska 1979), police officers on routine patrol observed a light in a normally dark exterior corridor at 2:30 a.m. As they approached its source, they saw that a fire exit of a closed theater had been propped open. They entered the theater and found defendant and others using drugs. The majority of the Alaska Supreme Court based its approval of this search on its belief that occupiers of commercial premises have a less intense expectation of privacy than occupiers of residential premises. And, "when a police intrusion takes place in a context in which only a 'diminished expectation of privacy' exists, such a search must be 'reasonable' within the meaning of the Constitution, but may not necessarily be subject to the warrant requirement." 601 P.2d at 242. It observed that, at 2:30 a.m., "when the doors close, the business owner has gone home, and night falls, the owner's interest is normally not the protection of private conduct; at such a time, when the property is most vulnerable to burglary, the security of the premises ordinarily becomes the paramount interest." 601 P.2d at 243. Accordingly, the court said: "We hold that law enforcement personnel may enter commercial premises without a warrant only when, pursuant to a routine after-hours security check undertaken to protect the interests of the property owner, it is discovered that the security of the premises is in jeopardy, and only when there is no reason to believe that the owner would not consent to such an entry. In the context with which we are immediately concerned, locked premises must be taken as indicating that no warrantless entry is authorized. Any search conducted incident to a legitimate entry must be brief and must be limited and necessary to the purpose of ensuring that no intruders are present on the premises. In addition, someone responsible for the premises must be informed, as soon as is practicable, of the protective measures taken." 601 P.2d at 244.