Entry to Arrest

by Charles Gillingham

The California Supreme Court in People v. Ramey (1976) 16 Cal.3d 263 and the U.S. Supreme Court in Payton v. New York (1980) 445 U.S. 573, both held that entry into a residence to arrest a suspect requires a warrant. Payton also requires that officers have probable cause to believe that (1) the suspect lives at the residence and (2) the suspect is currently present within the residence.

How about the suspect that is in a third person's residence? The USSC in Steagald v. U.S. (1981) 451 U.S. 204, held that a warrant was necessary for officers to enter and arrest a suspect who might be in a friend or relative's home. The USSC expanded the necessity of a warrant to a third party residence.

Each of the court rulings touched on the danger and invasive nature of a forced entry to a residence to effectuate an arrest.

It is critically important that the up to date officer understand the legal requirements necessary to enter a residence or private location to arrest a suspect.


Err on the side of caution. ANY location that is being used as a residence, home, apartment, motel, hotel, mobile home, tent and so may be ruled a residence for RAMEY/PAYTON/STEAGALD purposes. A private office in a building has also been ruled a location entitled to protection as well. It is ALWAYS better to obtain a search warrant prior to entry into a private location.


Remember, the only requirement for a warrant is to ENTER a residence. If the suspect is outside, on the threshold, hallway, at the open door, or on the front porch, a warrant is not required. Officers can get the suspect out of the house with a lie, a ruse, and you may also order the suspect to come out of the residence and then arrest her when she exits the residence. If the suspect opens the door, you may arrest her because she has made herself accessible to the public. By coming to the door, the suspect has made herself subject to public access and thus is in public. If the suspect at the door decides to run back into the residence, you can chase her back in and arrest her inside the residence.


In the 9th Circuit, officers have the right to reach inside the doorway to arrest a suspect when the suspect voluntarily opens the door, the door is open wide enough for the officers to see the suspect, and the officers identify themselves as officers.


You must have the legal right to enter, you must have probable cause to believe the suspect resides at that location and is inside the residence.