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Comm v. Catanzaro (Search Warrant)

When executing a search warrant, police may lawfully detain all occupants of the home.

Police obtained a search warrant for the defendant's apartment, which authorized them to search the home and 'any person present.' Just prior to executing the warrant, police saw the defendant and his girlfriend (Gravina) leave the apartment. A few minutes later, (they were 50-70 feet away from the house) police stopped the couple and informed them of the warrant. Gravina told the police that it was her apartment. Both the defendant and Gravina were then brought back to the apartment to be present during the search. Based on statements the defendant made, police found over 28 grams of cocaine in Gravina's purse.

The defendant was charged with trafficking and moved to suppress the cocaine, claiming the detention of Gravina was unlawful. The motion judge allowed the defendant's motion to suppress and the Commonwealth appealed. The SJC reversed the decision of the motion judge, looking to the federal rule set forth in Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692 (1981), where the U.S. Supreme Court held that 'a warrant to search for contraband founded on probable cause implicitly carries with it a limited authority to detain the occupants of the premises while a proper search is conducted.'

In analyzing this case under Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, the Court looked to the reasonableness of the police actions. The police had a reasonable and articulable suspicion to believe that Gravina was committing, has committed or was about to commit a crime, simply by virtue of her connection to the subject of the warrant (her home). In balancing the need to search or seize against the nature of the intrusion, the Court determined this intrusion to be minimal: "We think that for purposes of Art. 14, like the Fourth Amendment, 'it is constitutionally reasonable to require a citizen to remain while officers of the law execute a valid warrant to search his home.' "
Further, the very existence of the warrant objectively justifies the detention, because a neutral magistrate has determined there is "probable cause to believe that someone in the home is committing a crime." Id. The occupant's connection to the home gives police an "easily identifiable and certain basis for determining that suspicion of criminal activity justifies a detention of that occupant." It is constitutionally reasonable to require persons to remain on the premises while police execute a valid warrant to search their home.

Here, the defendant and Gravina had walked 50-70 feet down the driveway when the police stopped them, "as soon as practicable" after they had left the apartment. The detention of Gravina just outside her apartment comported with the requirements of the 4th AMD.
However, in certain circumstances we have concluded that art. 14 provides greater protection against searches and seizures than the Fourth Amendment.

After volunteering that the apartment was hers, and expressing concern about the police entry, Gravina agreed to accompany the group back to the apartment so the officers could execute the warrant.
The police needed reasonable suspicion that Gravina was committing, had committed, or was about to commit a crime, to justify detaining her and bringing her back to the apartment. Gravina's spontaneous acknowledgment that it was her apartment provides such a basis, because a neutral, detached magistrate had already determined there was probable cause to believe narcotics were being sold there. "The connection of an occupant to that home gives the police officer an easily identifiable and certain basis for determining that suspicion of criminal activity justifies a detention of that occupant" while the police search the home pursuant to a valid warrant.

The police acted reasonably under the circumstances, and therefore their conduct did not offend either the Fourth Amendment or art. 14.
 
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