Post details: MD: Officer's opening screen door where officers saw drugs stashed between screen door and inside door was not unreasonable


Permalink 10:39:05 pm, by fourth, 1630 words, 1480 views   English (US)
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MD: Officer's opening screen door where officers saw drugs stashed between screen door and inside door was not unreasonable

The defendant was alleged to have stashed a bag of drugs between his screen door and the inside door. Because the door was unlocked, and it was not considered a perimeter door, he lacked an expectation of privacy there. Christian v. State, 172 Md. App. 212, 914 A.2d 151 (January 2, 2007):

The suppression court in this case recognized a difference in the way that the public uses the entry door that leads to the private quarters of the home and the screened door between such an entry door and the street. The suppression court found that the screen door in question was of the variety that would be accessible to strangers approaching the residence, stating:

"... I started thinking in terms of when deliveries are made to a home, when guests come into a house, what do they do[? T]hey open the [screen] door and knock. [¶] Oftentimes packages are placed within those two doors, and from a common sense perspective standpoint, that area between those doors does not or is not afforded that same level of protection as to the area beyond that wooden door where there is an expectation of privacy. [¶] * * * So I'm finding ... there was no reasonable expectation of privacy within that area, that this is basically from a common sense perspective, it is not protected because too much open use is made of that area, and too much unauthorized use is expected in that area, between the storm door and that interior door for there to be an expectation of privacy...."

We agree. The suppression court's factual findings about the nature of the subject screen door are not clearly erroneous. Both the custom of public use of such doors and the visual permeability of screen doors support the suppression court's conclusions. A similar analysis was adopted by the court in United States v. Arellano-Ochoa, 461 F.3d 1142, 1145 (9th Cir. 2006), in a case in which the police officers were confronted with a screen door. The court stated:

"Whether opening a screen door breaches a reasonable expectation of privacy depends on the circumstances. During winter in a cold climate, people ordinarily keep the solid door shut. About the only way for mail and package delivery people, solicitors, missionaries, children funding school trips, and neighbors to knock on the door is to open the screen door and knock on the solid door. People understand that visitors will need to open the screen door, and have no expectation to the contrary. The reason why people do not feel that their privacy is breached by opening the screen door to knock is that it isn't; the solid door protects their privacy."

In the summer, when people leave their solid doors open for ventilation, the screen door is all that separates the inside from the outside. People can get a resident's attention by knocking on the screen door without opening it. Where the solid door is wide open, the screen door is what protects the privacy of the people inside -- not just their visual privacy, which it protects only partially, but also their privacy from undesired intrusion. Where the solid door is open so that the screen door is all that protects the privacy of the residents, opening the screen door infringes upon a reasonable and legitimate expectation of privacy.

The distinguishing factor is not whether the time of year is summer or winter, but whether the screen door is acting as the perimeter barrier to the residence. See State v. Kitchen, 1997 ND 241, 572 N.W.2d 106, 109 (N.D. 1997) ("When officers knock on a door where visitors logically would knock, while engaged in legitimate police activities, they have no less right to be there than any member of the public calling at that home."). See also Fitzgerald v. State, 153 Md. App. 601, 666-67, 837 A.2d 989 (2003) ("[T]he vestibule of the apartment house was no different than a public street or an open field. The police needed no justification for being there."), aff'd on other grounds, 384 Md. 484, 864 A.2d 1006 (2004).

In the present case, the suppression judge found that the solid door to the residence was closed, and that the screen door would have been opened by delivery men and others approaching the house. There was no evidence that the screen door was latched, or that a door knocker or door bell were located on the outside of the screen door. Under the circumstances, we agree with the suppression court's conclusion that appellant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the space between the screen door and the solid entry door of the rowhouse.

The plaintiff had her social security and other identifying information placed on a court's website. The information was used in an identity theft. Posting the information was not an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. Lambert v. Hartmann, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93926 (S.D. Ohio December 29, 2006):

In Kallstrom v. City of Columbus, the Sixth Circuit found that under the first step of the above analysis, the plaintiffs had a privacy interest in personal information of a constitutional dimension. 136 F.3d at 1062. The facts of Kallstrom are that the City of Columbus disclosed personal information contained in police officer personnel files to defense counsel during a criminal trial in which the officers testified against the defendants. Id. at 1058. The court noted that "[i]ndividuals have 'a clearly established right under the substantive component of the Due Process Clause to personal security and to bodily integrity,' and this right is fundamental where 'the magnitude of the liberty deprivation that [the] abuse inflicts upon the victim . . . strips the very essence of personhood.'" 136 F.3d at 1062-63, quoting Doe v. Claiborne County, 103 F.3d 495, 507 (6th Cir. 1996). The Court explained that "it goes without saying that an individual's 'interest in preserving her life is one of constitutional dimension.'" Id., quoting Nishiyama v. Dickson County, 814 F.2d 277, 280 (6th Cir. 1987) (en banc). The court concluded that the disclosure of the officers' addresses, phone numbers, and driver's licenses, as well as the personal information of their family members rose to a constitutional dimension because of the threat to the personal security and bodily integrity of the officers and their family members. Id. at 1063. The court therefore proceeded to the second step, and balanced the officers' interests against those of the city. Id. The court noted that Ohio's Public Records Act required the state to make available all public records to any person, and for purposes of the case before it, assumed that the interest in public access to these records rose to a compelling state interest. Id. at 1064-65. Nevertheless, the court found that the release of the officers' information was not narrowly tailored to serve these interests. Id. at 1065. The court explained: "[w]hile there may be situations in which the release of the this type of personal information might further the public's understanding of the workings of its law enforcement agencies, the facts as presented here do not support such a conclusion." Id.

In Bloch v. Ribar, the Sixth Circuit again found that the plaintiffs had an interest at stake which implicated either a fundamental right or one implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. 156 F.3d at 685. In Bloch, a rape victim and her husband claimed that the sheriff violated their constitutional rights by holding a press conference to release the confidential and highly personal details of the rape by an unknown assailant. Id. at 676. The court noted that "[t]he fact that the crime of rape occurred in this case implicates both a private and a public interest, but the details of the rape primarily implicate a private interest until such time as the public interest in prosecution predominates." Id. at 685-86. Therefore, the court concluded that "a rape victim has a fundamental right of privacy in preventing government officials from gratuitously and unnecessarily releasing the intimate details of the rape where no penalogical purpose is being served." Id. at 686. Moving to the second step of the analysis, the court explained that it appeared that there was no justification for disseminating the details of the rape at the time of the press conference. Id. Therefore, the court found that the plaintiffs had raised a cognizable privacy claim under section 1983. Id.

Unlike Kallstrom and Bloch, the Court determines that Plaintiff's alleged privacy interest in her name, signature, home address, birth date, driver's license number, and social security number do not implicate either a fundamental right or one implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. Plaintiff has only identified a risk of financial harm. While the Court is not unmindful of the problems which may result from the release of personal information, it nonetheless is beyond dispute that plaintiff's injury from the release of information in this case bears no equivalence to the potential and actual harm suffered by the Kallstrom and Bloch plaintiffs, respectively, which harm the Sixth Circuit has found to be protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Therefore, the Court concludes that based upon the allegations in the Complaint, Plaintiff is not entitled to relief under section 1983. The Court finds that nothing within Plaintiff's proposed amendments to the Complaint would alter this conclusion.

Summary judgment was granted officers on alleged unreasonable detention during the execution of a search warrant. The officers said the detention was handcuffing for two hours while the search was completed. The plaintiffs said five hours. Under Summers, the detention was not unreasonable, even if it were five hours. Diaz v. City of New York, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93923 (E.D. N.Y. December 29, 2006).*

NYPD Housing unit had reasonable suspicion to detain defendant for not belonging to the building he was hanging out in when he gave two versions of why he was there, and he claimed a friend in 7B, but nobody in 7B had that name or knew him. People v. Wigfall, 2005 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 3493, 234 N.Y.L.J. 74 (Bronx Co. October 17, 2005).*


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