MN court: Police can enter home where subject of arrest warrant is visiting

Even people who are only casually familiar with the Constitution know that for the most part, police need a search warrant to enter a home. But what if the person they’re looking for is at someone else’s home?

The Minnesota Court of Appeals today reinstated the case against a Meeker County resident after a district court threw out the case against Leona Rose deLottinville because sheriff’s deputies captured her while she was visiting a boyfriend. The lower court had also ruled that evidence seized in the arrest could not be used against her.

In its ruling today (pdf), the Court of Appeals acknowledged that a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court case clarified that an arrest warrant justifies entry into a suspect’s own home, but did not address the situation where the subject of an arrest warrant is found or believed to be present in another person’s home.

“This case is about whether entry for the purpose of arresting a visitor pursuant to a valid warrant violated the visitor’s reasonable expectation of privacy,” Court of Appeals Judge John Rodenberg wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel.”

Rodenberg said she did not enjoy such expectation.

“When police have probable cause to believe that the subject of a valid arrest warrant is present as a visitor in the residence of another, police may enter that residence to effectuate the arrest under that warrant without violating the Fourth Amendment rights of the person named therein,” he said.

But the question of whether the homeowner’s rights were violated was not answered in the decision, he acknowledged.