CA1: There was no “doorway arrest” under Santana when ptf was behind a locked door the entire time

Police entered plaintiff’s house without a warrant to arrest him. An hour had passed, and any exigency was long gone. As for whether this could be a “doorway arrest” under Santana, that too is rejected because plaintiff was behind a locked door the entire time. The law is thus clearly established, and there is no qualified immunity. Morse v. Cloutier, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 16287 (1st Cir. Aug. 25, 2017):

In explaining this ruling, the court noted that a full hour had passed between the officers’ awareness of the contretemps involving the young men and their encounter with Morse at his home. See id. at 187. Relatedly, the court highlighted deposition testimony from one of the defendants to the effect that he and his fellow officers were not anticipating any sort of emergency situation when they knocked on the plaintiffs’ door, nor were they engaged in a hot pursuit of Morse at that time. See id. Finally, the court stressed that none of the officers had expressed any concern that Morse might escape through the front door, destroy evidence, or hurt someone inside the home. See id. at 188.

At the same time, the court rejected the defendants’ claim that a doorway arrest had occurred. See id. at 192. In the court’s view, the circumstances of Morse’s arrest — including the fact that he was behind a locked door for the entire time — distinguished his case from the doorway-arrest cases cited by the defendants. The court held that Morse’s case fit comfortably within the scope of clearly established law. See id. Summing up, the court stated: “[v]iewing the facts from the record in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs, no reasonable law enforcement officer would have understood the warrantless entry and arrest of Charles Morse to comport with the Fourth Amendment.” Id. This finding, of course, effectively derailed the defendants’ quest for qualified immunity.5 See id. The court further determined that genuine issues of material fact prevented the granting of summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ MCRA and state tort claims. See id. at 195-96.

. . .

B. Doorway Arrests.

The defendants have another argument waiting in the wings. They insist that the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement does not apply because Morse’s arrest was a doorway arrest, obviating the need for a warrant. This argument presents a question of law and, thus, we have jurisdiction to review it. See Johnson, 515 U.S. at 319; Camilo-Robles, 151 F.3d at 8.

The defendants’ argument hinges on the notion that the controlling precedent is not Payton but, rather, United States v. Santana, 427 U.S. 38 (1976). There, the police arrived at the suspect’s home to find her “standing directly in [her] doorway — one step forward would have put her outside, one step backward would have put her in the vestibule of her residence.” Id. at 40 n.1. As soon as they approached, the suspect beat a retreat into her home, and the police followed to complete the arrest. See id. at 40.

On these facts, the Supreme Court concluded that the police could arrest the suspect inside her home without a warrant. See id. at 42-43. The Court reasoned that by standing in her doorway, the suspect had voluntarily placed herself in public view and was, for all intents and purposes, in a public space. See id. at 42. It was noteworthy, in the Court’s view, that the suspect was exposed not only to public view but also to public “speech, hearing, and touch as if she had been standing completely outside her house.” Id. Crucial to the analysis was the officers’ claim that they were operating under exigent circumstances: the suspect was not merely stepping into her home but was fleeing arrest, requiring the officers to follow her in hot pursuit. See Santana, 427 U.S. at 42-43; see also Welsh v. Wisconsin, 466 U.S. 740, 750 (1984) (classifying Santana as an exigent circumstances case). In such circumstances, the Court held, a suspect cannot “defeat an arrest which has been set in motion in a public place … [by] escaping to a private place.” Santana, 427 U.S. at 43.

The defendants argue that Santana controls here. They maintain that “[w]hen Morse chose to open his door,” he exposed himself to public view and was therefore in a public space where he could be arrested without a warrant. They add that, like the officers in Santana, they were operating under exigent circumstances because they were in hot pursuit of their suspect.

This case, however, is at a significant remove from Santana. For one thing, Morse came to his doorway only after the officers knocked. Thus, he was in public view only because the police — unlike the police in Santana — summoned him to his door. For another thing, unlike the suspect in Santana, Morse was not standing directly in his doorway. Instead, even when he approached the doorway in response to the officers’ knock, he remained behind a locked door (albeit a transparent one). For these reasons, he was not situated “as if [he] had been standing completely outside [his] house.” Id. at 42. What is more, we cannot conclude, at this stage, that the police were engaged in a hot pursuit as in Santana. See id. Rather, the district court found a genuine issue of material fact regarding the existence vel non of exigent circumstances. See Morse, 123 F. Supp. 3d at 188-89. Given the fact-based nature of the defendants’ arguments on appeal, we lack jurisdiction to question that finding in this case. See supra Part II(A). Thus, we must assume that the defendants faced no exigency. See Díaz, 112 F.3d at 4-5.

Given these important distinctions, we reject the defendants’ attempt to bring this case under Santana’s protective carapace. Accepting the defendants’ expansive reading of Santana would permit police officers to enter a suspect’s home to arrest him without a warrant as long as the suspect was visible to someone on the other side of his door. The Payton Court has emphasized that “the Fourth Amendment has drawn a firm line at the entrance to the house,” Payton, 445 U.S. at 590, and that “physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed,” id. at 585 (quoting United States v. U.S. Dist. Ct., 407 U.S. 297, 313 (1972)). The defendants’ reading of Santana would turn that firm line into a dotted line and, at the same time, would unfairly punish any suspect who chooses to come to the door upon hearing a police officer’s knock. Cf. King, 563 U.S. at 469-70 (explaining that, as a general matter, “[w]hen law enforcement officers who are not armed with a warrant knock on a door, . . . the occupant has no obligation to open the door or to speak”). Consequently, Santana does not control this case.

This brings us to a pivotal point in our analysis. Given the two determinations we have thus far reached — that the district court’s exigent circumstances assessment is unreviewable at this juncture and that Morse (unlike the suspect in Santana) was not in a public place at the critical time — we hold that the facts, taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, make out a violation of a constitutional right. See Alfano, 847 F.3d at 75. Accordingly, we proceed to the next step of the qualified immunity paradigm and consider whether the applicable law was so clearly established that no reasonable officer would have entered the plaintiffs’ home without a warrant. See id. [And it is.]

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