Illinois v. McArthur, 531 U.S. 326 (2001)

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certiorari to the appellate court of illinois, fourth district

No. 99-1132. Argued November 1, 2000—Decided February 20, 2001

Police officers, with probable cause to believe that respondent McArthur had hidden marijuana in his home, prevented him from entering the home unaccompanied by an officer for about two hours while they obtained a search warrant. Once they did so, the officers found drug paraphernalia and marijuana, and arrested McArthur. He was subsequently charged with misdemeanor possession of those items. He moved to suppress the evidence on the ground that it was the "fruit" of an unlawful police seizure, namely, the refusal to let him reenter his home unaccompanied. The Illinois trial court granted the motion, and the State Appellate Court affirmed.

Held: Given the nature of the intrusion and the law enforcement interest at stake, the brief seizure of the premises was permissible under the Fourth Amendment. Pp. 330-337.

(a) The Amendment's central requirement is one of reasonableness. Although, in the ordinary case, personal property seizures are unreasonable unless accomplished pursuant to a warrant, United States v. Place, 462 U. S. 696, 701, there are exceptions to this rule involving special law enforcement needs, diminished expectations of privacy, minimal intrusions, and the like, see, e. g., Pennsylvania v. Labron, 518 U. S. 938, 940-941. The circumstances here involve a plausible claim of specially pressing or urgent law enforcement need. Cf., e. g., United States v. Place, supra, at 701. Moreover, the restraint at issue was tailored to that need, being limited in time and scope, cf. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1, 29-30, and avoiding significant intrusion into the home itself, cf. Payton v. New York, 445 U. S. 573, 585. Consequently, rather than employing a per se rule of unreasonableness, the Court must balance the privacy-related and law enforcement-related concerns to determine if the intrusion here was reasonable. Cf. Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U. S. 648, 654. In light of the following circumstances, considered in combination, the Court concludes that the restriction was reasonable, and hence lawful. First, the police had probable cause to believe that McArthur's home contained evidence of a crime and unlawful drugs. Second, they had good reason to fear that, unless restrained, he would destroy the drugs before they could return with a warrant. Third, they

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