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In Maryland v. Buie, 494 U.S. 325 (1990), the United States Supreme Court held that when making an in-home arrest, law enforcement officers may make a warrantless search of the residence in which the arrest occurs if they can articulate a reasonable suspicion that someone other than the arrestee is present in the residence and posing a danger to the officers. The search, commonly known as a “protective sweep,” is supposed to be cursory in nature, and it is supposed to last no longer than is necessary for the officers to either detain the persons posing the danger or to satisfy themselves that no one else is actually present.
In the Kansas City area, however, law enforcement officers don’t always concern themselves with the niceties of Supreme Court precedent. In fact, local police agencies have a habit of conducting protective sweeps just about any time they engage in an operation that presents even a remote risk to the officers, regardless of whether they are making an in-home arrest or whether they can articulate a basis for believing that a dangerous person lurks somewhere in the residence. (more…)