Protective Sweep Landmark Case

In Maryland v. Buie (1990) 494 U.S. 325, two armed robbers were at large, but when only the defendant emerged from the basement, officers reasonably suspected the other robber could be hiding in the residence. (Buie, supra, 494 U.S. at p. 328.)

Six or seven police officers arrived at the defendant's residence to serve an arrest warrant for a reported robbery of a pizza restaurant by two men, one of whom wore a red running suit. Once inside, officers fanned out through the first and second floor, while a single officer shouted for anyone in the basement to come out. The officer arrested and handcuffed the defendant as he emerged from the basement, while another officer entered the basement "in case there was someone else" hiding, and spotted a red running suit in plain view. (Buie, supra, at p. 328.)

Buie upheld the protective sweep, which the court described as a "quick and limited search of premises, incident to an arrest and conducted to protect the safety of police officers or others. It is narrowly confined to a cursory visual inspection of those places in which a person might be hiding." (Buie, supra, 494 U.S. at p. 327.)

The officers, however, could not initiate a protective sweep on a mere hunch, but only if officers have "'a reasonable belief based on "specific and articulable facts . . .reasonably warranteded" the officer in believing,' that the area to be swept harbors an individual posing a danger to the officers or others." (Id. at p. 327.) In requiring a reasonable and "individualized suspicion" to justify a protective sweep, the court rejected "the State's argument that no level of objective justification should be required because of 'the danger that inheres in the in-home arrest for a violent crime.'" (Id. at p. 334, fn. 2.)