Is Police Arrest of a Person Standing In the Doorway of His House Considered ''In Public'' ?
In United States v. Santana, 427 U.S. 38, 42-43, 49 L. Ed. 2d 300, 305, 96 S. Ct. 2406, 2409-10 (1976), the police, who had probable cause to arrest the defendant, proceeded to the defendant's house, where they found the defendant standing in the doorway. Santana, 427 U.S. at 40, 49 L. Ed. 2d at 304, 96 S. Ct. at 2408.
According to the testimony of one of the officers, the defendant "was standing directly in the doorway--one step forward would have put her outside, one step backward would have put her in the vestibule of her residence." Santana, 427 U.S. at 40 n.1, 49 L. Ed. 2d at 304 n.1, 96 S. Ct. at 2408 n.1.
Upon arriving, the police identified themselves, and the defendant then retreated into her house.
The police followed her into the house, capturing her in the vestibule and placing her under arrest. Santana, 427 U.S. at 40, 49 L. Ed. 2d at 304, 96 S. Ct. at 2408.
The Supreme Court noted that under United States v. Watson, 423 U.S. 411, 46 L. Ed. 2d 598, 96 S. Ct. 820 (1976), where probable cause exists, police may effectuate a warrantless arrest on a person in public without violating the fourth amendment. Santana, 427 U.S. at 42, 49 L. Ed. 2d at 305, 96 S. Ct. at 2409.
The Court also observed that when the police initially attempted to arrest the defendant, she was standing in the doorway of her house, neither inside nor outside the house. Santana, 427 U.S. at 42, 49 L. Ed. 2d at 305, 96 S. Ct. at 2409.
The Court concluded that the defendant was in public for purposes of the fourth amendment, because she "was not merely visible to the public but was as exposed to public view, speech, hearing, and touch as if she had been standing completely outside her house." Santana, 427 U.S. at 42, 49 L. Ed. 2d at 305, 96 S. Ct. at 2409.
Thus, the officers, at the time they initiated the arrest of the defendant, sought to effectuate an arrest in accordance with the procedures approved in Watson, and the Court held that the defendant could not thwart that lawful arrest by retreating into her private residence. Santana, 427 U.S. at 42, 49 L. Ed. 2d at 305, 96 S. Ct. at 2409.