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Arrest — Search Incident to Arrest — “Protective Sweep” of Residence

State v. Antonion Blanco, Nora M. Al-Shammari, 2000 WI App 119, 237 Wis.2d 395, 614 N.W.2d 512
For Blanco: Michael P. Jakus

Issue: Whether the police were justified, under “protective sweep” rationale, to search a crawl space in a bathroom ceiling.

Holding: Though narrowly confined to cursory inspection of places where a person might be hiding following an arrest inside of a residence, the protective-sweep doctrine in this case justified search of a crawl space bolted in place by four screws.

Following in-home arrest, the police are allowed to make a limited protective sweep of the premises, if there’s reason to believe that the area to be swept contains a potentially dangerous individual. Maryland v. Buie, 494 U.S. 325 (1990). Just what was swept here? A crawl space in the bathroom ceiling, tightened down with four screws. The defendants’ claims of foul “do not fall on deaf ears”; the search “may raise an eyebrow.” ¶26. Nonetheless, the situation was potentially “explosive,” an inordinate amount of noise had come from the area near the crawl space, the panel appeared to have recently been removed, and so on. ¶¶26-29. And if the officers had paused momentarily to open the bathroom medicine cabinet? See State v. Zamora, 2005-NMCA-039 (“The search of the medicine cabinet cannot be upheld as a protective sweep.’).

 

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