Are Protective Sweeps Permissible Under the Constitution ?

In Commonwealth v. Crouse, 1999 PA Super 61, 729 A.2d 588 (Pa. Super. 1999), appeal denied, 560 Pa. 738, 747 A.2d 364 (Pa. November 9, 1999), this Court held that properly conducted protective sweeps violate neither the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution nor Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Crouse involved police officers attempting to effectuate an arrest warrant at the defendant's home. Police, already lawfully inside the home, heard a woman's scream from the second floor of the home and immediately proceeded to the second floor "to secure the residence for the safety of the officers." 729 A.2d at 590. Upon review of the definition of a "protective sweep" as set forth in Maryland v. Buie, 494 U.S. 325, 110 S. Ct. 1093, 108 L. Ed. 2d 276 (1990), in conjunction with Pennsylvania case law discussing similar cursory searches, this Court held that protective sweeps are permissible pursuant to Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The kind of sweep envisioned here is for persons. It cannot be used as a pretext for an evidentiary search. It cannot be lengthy or unduly disruptive. It must be swift and target only those areas where a person could reasonably be expected to hide. Above all, it must be supported by articulable facts and inferences giving rise to reasonable suspicion that the area to be swept harbors an individual posing a danger to the police. Crouse, supra at 598.