Tuesday, August 16, 2011

No Reasonable Expectation of Privacy in Common Area of Multi-Unit Dwelling

In United States v. Correa, No. 10-2199 (3d Cir., Aug. 2, 2011) , law enforcement officials executed arrest warrants for two associates an escaped inmate at a multi-unit dwelling. When the officers arrived at the building, the exterior front door was locked. As a result, one of the officers climbed through a partially opened window and unlocked the door for his colleagues. Once inside, the officers encountered the two individuals they initially sought as well as the defendant in the common stairwell leading to the basement. During the search incident to his arrest, the defendant alerted his arresting officer that he possessed a firearm. The defendant challenged his arrest in the common area of the multi-unit dwelling as the fruit of an unlawful entrance and search, and he sought the suppression of the firearm and his subsequent statement. The Third Circuit disagreed, extending its ruling in United States v. Acosta, 965 F.2d 1248 (3d Cir. 1992), to rule that a resident of a multi-unit dwelling has no objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in the common areas of the dwelling, regardless of whether the exterior door is regularly locked or unlocked. The court reasoned that no objectively reasonable expectation of privacy can exist in the common area of multi-unit dwelling where all of the residents are permitted to access, as well as their guests. The court also determined that a locked exterior door does not serve to protect the privacy interests of the residents, but rather serves to provide them with security. The court ultimately ruled that, as the defendant had no objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in the common area of the multi-unit dwelling, he lacked standing to challenge the law enforcement officials' entrance and search. Therefore, no Fourth Amendment violation occurred.

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