Michigan v. Summers
Decided on June 22, 1981; 452 US 692


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Search and seizure

B. Legal Question Presented:

Is it lawful to detain someone, on their property as it is being lawfully searched, in case evidence is found establishing probable cause to arrest?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"As Detroit police officers were about to execute a warrant to search a house for narcotics, they encountered respondent descending the front steps. They requested his assistance in gaining entry and detained him while they searched the premises. After finding narcotics in the basement and ascertaining that respondent owned the house, the police arrested him, searched his person, and found in his coat pocket an envelope containing 8.5 grams of heroin.

Respondent was charged with possession of the heroin found on his person. He moved to suppress the heroin as the product of an illegal search in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and the trial judge granted the motion and quashed the information. That order was affirmed by a divided panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals and by the Michigan Supreme Court over the dissent of three of its justices."

O
n certiorari the US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Michigan Supreme Court.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Brief of amici curiae urging affirmance by Bruce J. Ennis, Jr., who argued the cause for the American Civil Liberties Union. With him on the brief was Lawrence Herman.

Gerald M. Lorence argued the cause and filed a brief for respondent.

Brief of amici curiae urging reversal by Elliott Schulder, who argued the cause for the United States. With him on the brief were Solicitor General McCree, Assistant Attorney General Heymann, and Deputy Solicitor General Frey.

Timothy A. Baughman argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the brief was William L. Cahalan.

IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"...[S]ome seizures significantly less intrusive than an arrest have withstood scrutiny under the reasonableness standard embodied in the Fourth Amendment. In these cases the intrusion on the citizen's privacy 'was so much less severe' than that involved in a traditional arrest that 'the opposing interests in crime prevention and detection and in the police officer's safety' could support the seizure as reasonable...

Of prime importance in assessing the intrusion is the fact that the police had obtained a warrant to search respondent's house for contraband. A neutral and detached magistrate had found probable cause to believe that the law was being violated in that house and had authorized a substantial invasion of the privacy of the persons who resided there. The detention of one of the residents while the premises were searched, although admittedly a significant restraint on his liberty, was surely less intrusive than the search itself. Indeed, we may safely assume that most citizens - unless they intend flight to avoid arrest - would elect to remain in order to observe the search of their possessions. Furthermore, the type of detention imposed here is not likely to be exploited by the officer or unduly prolonged in order to gain more information, because the information the officers seek normally will be obtained through the search and not through the detention. Moreover, because the detention in this case was in respondent's own residence, it could add only minimally to the public stigma associated with the search itself and would involve neither the inconvenience nor the indignity associated with a compelled visit to the police station...

If the evidence that a citizen's residence is harboring contraband is sufficient to persuade a judicial officer that an invasion of the citizen's privacy is justified, it is constitutionally reasonable to require that citizen to remain while officers of the law execute a valid warrant to search his home. Thus, for Fourth Amendment purposes, we hold that a warrant to search for contraband founded on probable cause implicitly carries with it the limited authority to detain the occupants of the premises while a proper search is conducted."

The US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Michigan Supreme Court.

Justice Vote: 3 Pro vs. 6 Con

  • Stevens, J.P. Con (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Burger, W. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • White, B. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Blackmun, H. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Powell, L. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Rehnquist, W. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Stewart, P. Pro (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Brennan, W. Pro (Joined dissenting opinion)
  • Marshall, T. Pro (Joined dissenting opinion)
  • V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

    The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged affirmance of the Michigan Supreme Court's judgment; the Supreme Court reversed in a 6-3 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent loss.