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Name: Illinois v. McArthur
Case #: 99-1132
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 02/20/2001
Subsequent History: 121 S.Ct. 946; 148 L.Ed.2d 838

Police officers, with probable cause to believe there is evidence of a jailable offense and contraband in a home, may prevent the resident from entering the home unaccompanied for a reasonable period of time while a search warrant is obtained, without running afoul of the Fourth Amendment. Rejecting an argument that this should be per se illegal, the Supreme Court applied the reasonableness standard and balanced the privacy right at issue against the law enforcement concern, which here was the destruction of the evidence. To this calculus, the Supreme Court added the fact that the police here had used the least restrictive alternative, rather than searching the home or arresting the man without a warrant, and that the length of time taken was reasonable. Here, the man was merely prevented from entering his home unaccompanied for approximately two hours. That was reasonable because it was no longer in duration that necessary for a reasonably diligent officer to obtain the warrant. The Supreme Court explicitly declined to consider whether the same analysis would apply to a nonjailable offense. Justice Souter concurred. Justice Stevens dissented, pointing out that the detection and prosecution of possessors of small quantities of marijuana is by no means a law enforcement priority in Illinois. Given the slightness of this governmental interest, this case is a poor vehicle for probing the boundaries of the government’s power to limit an individual’s possessory access to his home pending the arrival of a search warrant. Justice Stevens would have dismissed the writ of certiorari and improvidently granted. Compelled, however, to vote on the merits, Justice Stevens would have affirmed the granting of the suppression motion.