United States v. Santana 1976

views updated

United States v. Santana 1976

Petitioner: United States

Respondents: Mom Santana, et al.

Petitioner's Claim: That the police did not violate the Fourth Amendment when they arrested Mom Santana in her home and searched her for drug money.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner: Frank H. Easterbrook

Chief Lawyer for Respondent: Dennis H. Eisman

Justices for the Court: Harry A. Blackmun, Warren E. Burger, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., William H. Rehnquist, John Paul Stevens, Potter Stewart, Byron R. White

Justices Dissenting: William J. Brennan, Jr., Thurgood Marshall

Date of Decision: June 24, 1976

Decision: The Supreme Court said the police did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Significance: With Santana, the Supreme Court said police officers in hot pursuit of a criminal suspect do not need a warrant to chase her into her home and arrest her.

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects privacy. It requires police officers to have a warrant and probable cause before they arrest a person and search her in her home. A warrant is a document that a neutral magistrate issues when there is probable cause to arrest someone. Probable cause means good reason to believe the person has committed a crime. In United States v. Santana (1976), the Supreme Court had to decide whether the police need a warrant to arrest a person who retreats into her home after the police begin to chase her.

Drug Bust

Michael Gilletti was an undercover officer with the Philadelphia Narcotics Squad. On August 16, 1974, Gilletti arranged to buy heroin, a narcotic drug, from Patricia McCafferty. McCafferty told Gilletti the heroin would cost $115 and that they would get it from Mom Santana.

Gilletti told his supervisors about the plan and the Narcotics Squad planned a drug bust. Gilletti recorded the serial numbers for $110 in marked bills and went to meet McCafferty, who got into Gilletti's car and directed him to Mom Santana's house. There McCafferty took the money from Gilletti and went inside. When she returned a short time later, McCafferty got into Gilletti's car and they drove away together. When McCafferty pulled envelopes with heroin out of her bra, Gilletti stopped the car, showed McCafferty his badge, and arrested her.

McCafferty told Gilletti that Mom Santana had the marked money. Gilletti told this to Sergeant Pruitt, who went with his officers back to Mom Santana's house while Gilletti took McCafferty to the police station. At the house, Pruitt and his officers saw Mom Santana standing in the doorway holding a brown paper bag. The police stopped their car fifteen feet from Santana and got out of the car shouting "police" and showing their badges. As the officers approached Santana, she retreated into her home.

The police followed Mom Santana inside and caught her in the foyer. During a brief struggle, two bundles of packets with powder fell out of the brown paper bag. The powder turned out to be heroin. When the police ordered Santana to empty her pockets, she produced $70 of Gilletti's marked money.

The United States filed criminal charges against Mom Santana for possessing heroin with the intention of selling it. At her trial, Santana made a motion to exclude the evidence of the heroin and the marked money. Santana said the police violated her Fourth Amendment rights by arresting and searching her in her home without a warrant. The government is not allowed to use evidence it finds when it violates the Fourth Amendment. Without the heroin and the marked money, the government would not have a case against Santana.

The trial court granted Santana's motion. It said the government cannot enter a person's house to arrest her without a warrant. The court of appeals affirmed this decision, so the United States took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.


O n July 18, 1987, Joseph Ecker robbed an Amoco gasoline station in Minneapolis, Minnesota, killed the station manager, and escaped in a car driven by Rob Olson. Police found and arrested Ecker that same day. The next day, police received a call from a woman who said Olson was hiding in a house where he was staying with two women.

Police surrounded the house and then telephoned to ask Olson to come out. The woman who answered the phone said Olson was not there, but police heard Olson tell her to say that. Without a warrant, the police entered the home, found Olson hiding in a closet, and arrested him. Olson soon confessed to the crime and was convicted of murder, robbery, and assault.

On appeal, the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed Olson's conviction and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed. The Supreme Court said Olson expected privacy in the house where he was staying. The Fourth Amendment protects that privacy by requiring police officers to get a warrant before entering a home. Unlike in Santana, the police were not in hot pursuit of Olson. Instead, they surrounded the home to prevent Olson from escaping. There was plenty of time to get a warrant before entering the home to arrest Olson. Because the police failed to get a warrant, Olson's arrest and confession were illegal under the Fourth Amendment.

Mom Busted

With a 7–2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the United States. Writing for the Court, Justice William H. Rehnquist said the Fourth Amendment protects privacy by requiring probable cause before an arrest. From what McCafferty told Gilletti, the police had probable cause to believe Mom Santana was selling drugs.

Justice Rehnquist said the Fourth Amendment does not require police to have a warrant for every arrest. Police only need a warrant to enter a private place, such as a home. Mom Santana was not in her home when Sergeant Pruitt and his team tried to arrest her. She was standing in the doorway in full view of the public. Anything people choose to expose to the public is not private.

Rehnquist said Santana could not frustrate a legal arrest by retreating into her home. Rehnquist called this the "hot pursuit" doctrine. When police are in hot pursuit of a criminal suspect, they may follow her into her home if stopping to get a warrant would frustrate the arrest. In this case, Santana could have gotten rid of the marked money while police went to get a warrant. Under those circumstances, the police were allowed to follow Santana into her house. They did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Suggestions for further reading

Franklin, Paula A. The Fourth Amendment. Englewood Cliffs: Silver Burdett Press, 1991.

Persico, Deborah A. Mapp v. Ohio: Evidence and Search Warrants. Enslow Publishers, Inc., 1997.

—-. New Jersey v. T.L.O: Drug Searches in Schools. Enslow Publishers, Inc., 1998.

Shattuck, John H.F. Rights of Privacy. Skokie: National Textbook Co., 1977.

Wetterer, Charles M. The Fourth Amendment: Search and Seizure. Enslow Publishers, Inc., 1998.

About this article

United States v. Santana 1976

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article


United States v. Santana 1976