N.D.Ill.: There can’t be a pretextual SW for a plain view; it’s objectively reasonable or not

Court rejects claim that search warrant could be pretextual to seize something else in plain view. That’s a foray into subjective intent the court won’t do. United States v. Contreras, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 242185 (N.D.Ill. Dec. 20, 2021):

No evidentiary hearing is required on this motion, because even if one takes Mr. Contreras’s “pretext” contentions as true, he has not offered a viable basis for suppression of the evidence. A valid arrest warrant like the one issued here carries with it the authority to enter the home of the person named in the warrant to execute it, so long as the police have a reasonable belief that the person resides there and is currently present. See Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 603, 100 S. Ct. 1371, 63 L. Ed. 2d 639 (1980). And in conducting an otherwise appropriate entry into a home, the police have authority to conduct a limited “sweep” of the premises “to assure themselves that the house in which [the] suspect is being, or has just been, arrested is not harboring other persons who are dangerous and who could unexpectedly launch an attack . . . .” United States v. Contreras, 820 F.3d 255, 268 (7th Cir. 2016). The areas of Mr. Contreras’s home viewed by the agents—including the area where they saw the firearm in plain view—were within the appropriate scope of a permissible protective sweep.

The agents’ subjective intentions in executing the warrant at Mr. Contreras’s home as opposed to some other location are not, under any authority of which the Court is aware, relevant to the Fourth Amendment/suppression inquiry. Mr. Contreras has offered no authority in support of the proposition that the pretextual execution of an arrest warrant inside a suspect’s home provides a basis for suppression of evidence seen there in plain view. And the Court is aware of no such authority. Indeed, the only on-point authority cited by either party, United States v. Clayton, 210 F.3d 841 (8th Cir. 2000), is to the contrary. This is consistent with the general rule that determination of a Fourth Amendment violation turns on an objective assessment of law enforcement officers’ actions in light of the circumstances confronting them at the time, not on their subjective state of mind. See Maryland v. Macon, 472 U.S. 463, 470-71, 105 S. Ct. 2778, 86 L. Ed. 2d 370 (1985); see generally Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 813, 116 S. Ct. 1769, 135 L. Ed. 2d 89 (1996) (declining to preclude “pretextual” traffic stops).

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