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Reasonable Suspicion — Stop — Duration — Prolonged by Procurement and Execution of Warrant

State v. Bradley J. Vorburger, 2002 WI 105, reversing 2001 WI App 43
For Vorburger: David D. Cook

Issue1Whether the detention of suspect Becker in a motel hallway, while the police sought and then executed a search warrant for a room, was unnecessarily prolonged so as to amount to an arrest (unsupported by probable cause), where Becker was detained over an hour, handcuffed, and denied private use of a bathroom.

Holding1A search warrant carries implicit authority to detain an occupant of the premises to be searched. Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692, 705 (1981). The fact that Becker wasn’t registered to the room to be searched doesn’t throw her outside this principle: the police had reasonable suspicion that she was herself involved in criminal activity; and, she was standing outside the room, about to enter it, with the person to whom it was registered, giving her a “voluntary connection” to the room. ¶¶48-52, citing United States v. Pace, 898 F.2d 1218 (7th Cir. 1990), and United States v. Fountain, 2 F.3d 656 (6th Cir. 1993). Nor does it matter that Becker was detained before the search warrant had even been signed. The length of her detention — one hour and ten minutes — related to procurement and execution of the warrant was no longer than reasonably necessary. ¶63. That she was handcuffed didn’t convert the detention into an arrest. ¶64. The officers had a justified concern for their safety; there were three detainees, two of whom were large males. ¶66. The “central” aspect of this case is the search warrant, because of its authorization of a “limited detention” based on the same policy considerations underlying search incident to arrest — “We think such a concept applies to this case from the moment of initial detention to the completion of the search, because a search warrant was in the works and its execution was imminent, and because the police had articulable, reasonable suspicion for each of the people they detained.” ¶69.

The court casually suggests that State v. Swanson, 164 Wis. 2d 437, 448, 475 N.W.2d 148 (1991) can’t be reconciled with Summers and similar authority. ¶68. Hard to believe that the court thus meant to overrule Swanson; it probably meant that in the particular context of execution of a warrant, it simply doesn’t matter whether a reasonable person in the detainee’s position would perceive him or herself to be under arrest. The warrant, as a matter of law, necessarily makes the person’s restraint-status one of detention rather than arrest. Not that this principle is always and necessarily true: it’s just that the court’s casual (and ambiguous) dismissal of Swanson probably shouldn’t be taken at face value. Indeed, the court applies, albeit without citing Swanson, the reasonable person test for custody. ¶86. And see more recent authority relative to detaining someone during execution of warrant: Muehler, et al v. Mena, 125 S. Ct. 1465 (2005).

Issue2Whether continued detention after execution of the warrant, during which time her handcuffs were removed but was given Miranda warnings and interrogated, converted her detention into an arrest.

Holding2The police had a reasonable suspicion of Becker’s involvement in drug activity, and therefore were entitled to continue her detention as an investigatory effort to verify or dispel that suspicion. ¶¶70-89. Becker’s continued detention didn’t amount to an arrest, because her handcuffs were removed, and she was allowed to use the bathroom: “For Becker, the police were deescalating the conditions of her detention.” ¶86.

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