W.D.Pa.: Hot pursuit justified entry into def’s house

Highly specific and accurate information from a 911 call about a man with heroin and a gun in a blue drawstring bag in an area known for on-the-street drug deals and violent crimes brought police. Defendant matched the description. There was no allegation of the gun being brandished. Defendant fled from the police and into a house when he saw them. Hot pursuit justified the entry. United States v. Clark, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 108684 (W.D. Pa. June 10, 2021):

The Third Circuit has explained that “[n]either an anonymous tip nor a suspect’s flight from police creates probable cause on its own.” United States v. Acosta, 751 F. App’x 201, 201-02 (3d Cir. 2018). But the Third Circuit also recognized that “those facts, combined with others, can add up to probable cause.” Id. And “[i]t is well established that where police officers reasonably suspect that an individual may be engaged in criminal activity, and the individual deliberately takes flight when the officers attempt to stop and question him, the officers generally no longer have mere reasonable suspicion, but probable cause to arrest.” United States v. Navedo, 694 F.3d 463, 472 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing United States v. Laville, 480 F.3d 187 (3d Cir. 2007)). That is what happened here. Viewed collectively, the circumstances created probable cause to arrest Mr. Hicks.

And when Mr. Hicks fled from police, it was reasonable for Officer Poling to suspect that Mr. Hicks was attempting to evade arrest and/or to destroy evidence. The “hot pursuit” exigency usually requires “some element of a chase,” even if it ends “almost as soon as it began.” United States v. Santana, 427 U.S. 38, 43 n.3 (1976). “The fact that the pursuit here ended almost as soon as it began did not render it any the less a ‘hot pursuit’ sufficient to justify the warrantless entry into [the] house. Once [Mr. Hicks] saw the police, there was likewise a realistic expectation that any delay would result in destruction of evidence.” See id. When officers have “probable cause to believe contraband is present and, in addition, based on the surrounding circumstances or the information at hand, they reasonably conclude that the evidence will be destroyed or removed before they can secure a search warrant, a warrantless search is justified.” United States v. Rubin, 474 F.2d 262, 268 (3d Cir. 1973). Based on the totality of circumstances, Officer Poling had probable cause to believe Mr. Hicks not only possessed evidence but was at risk of destroying it.

As a result, exigent circumstances existed that justified the warrantless entry into 6216 Auburn. Mr. Wright’s argument that evidence should be suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree of the unlawful entry in 6216 Auburn thus fails. The Court will not suppress any evidence seized from 6216 Auburn.

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