Michigan v. Summers

LOCATION: Home of George Summers

DOCKET NO.: 79-1794
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Michigan Supreme Court

CITATION: 452 US 692 (1981)
ARGUED: Feb 25, 1981
DECIDED: Jun 22, 1981

Bruce J. Ennis, Jr. - on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union as amicus curiae
Elliott Schulder - on behalf of the United States as amicus curiae
Gerald M. Lorence - on behalf of the Respondent
Timothy A. Baughman - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case

The Fourth Amendment prohibits the unreasonable seizure of a person by the government, and the Fourteenth Amendment applies that prohibition to the states. On October 10, 1974, George Summers was leaving his house in Detroit, Michigan, as local police officers arrived with a warrant to search the property for narcotics. The officers requested that Summers help them gain entry to the house, and they detained him while they searched the premises. After finding two packages of heroin in the basement, the officers arrested Summers and searched his person. In his coat pocket, they found an envelope containing heroin, and it was this discovery of heroin⎯not the heroin found in the basement⎯that formed the basis of charges against Summers. At trial, Summers argued that the search of his person was illegal because the officers had no authority to detain him during their search of the house. The trial judge agreed and granted Summers’ motion to suppress the heroin evidence. On appeal, the State argued that Summers’ detention was reasonable, given his close proximity to the house when the officers arrived to perform the search. The State also contended that the concealable nature of the narcotics described in the warrant implicitly authorized the search of people found on the property. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order. The State appealed to the Supreme Court of Michigan, which affirmed the ruling of the lower court.


Did the officers have the authority under the Fourth Amendment to detain Summers while they executed a warrant to search his house for heroin and other contraband?

Media for Michigan v. Summers

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 25, 1981 in Michigan v. Summers

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Michigan v. Summers.

Mr. Baughman, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Timothy A. Baughman:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

I would like to take just a few moments to review the facts in this case.

But before I do I would like to first state concisely the framework in which the State of Michigan views this case.

We view this as a warrants case involving an issue as to the scope of the search allowed under a warrant which is directed at premises involving an issue as to the authority given to the executing officers by the warrant itself to detain persons on or departing from the premises for a period of time reasonable and necessary to insure the full and faithful execution of that warrant.

Now, the facts are these.

One October tenth at approximately 10:10 p.m. a team of Detroit police officers arrived at a residence in the City of Detroit to execute a search warrant for narcotics and narcotics paraphernalia.

The affidavit in support of that warrant indicated that a purchase of heroin had been made inside that residence the day previous from a black male known as George.

As the officers arrived to execute the warrant they observed respondent, George Summers, come out of the house and proceed down the front steps.

They stopped him and asked him if he lived in the house.

He answered affirmatively and was shown a copy of the search warrant and asked if he could get the officers inside the house.

He responded that he had left his keys inside but could ring someone over the intercom.

He did so and a person later known to be Dwight Calhoun answered the door by opening the inner door.

He realized the officers' authority and purpose.

He slammed that door shut and the door was then broken down by the police.

Mr. Summers was then brought inside the dwelling and taken into the living room.

Once the premises were secured, and by that I mean, once Mr. Summers and the other seven persons who were present in the house at the time were gathered in the living room, one officer as part of his duties in executing the warrant went to the basement to search, and there he found heroin, in the basement.

Mr. Summers was then arrested for the possession of this heroin, the heroin found in the basement, and a search of his person incident to that arrest revealed heroin also in his jacket pocket.

It was the heroin in his jacket pocket which ultimately formed the basis of the charge against him.

He was bound over for trial on that charge but the charge was dismissed by the trial judge.

The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed that dismissal, holding that the arrest for possession of the heroin in the basement was without probable cause because the officers did not possess sufficient facts to sustain conviction on that charge.

The Michigan Court of Appeals also rejected the argument that Mr. Summers could be searched under the authority of the warrant itself.

The Michigan Supreme Court granted leave on those issues but decided the case on a different issue after this Court's decision in Dunaway v. New York, holding that the initial detention of Mr. Summers when he was brought from the porch inside the house was without probable cause and that being without probable cause it was unconstitutional.

And this Court then granted certiorari.

It is our position, first, that the search of Mr. Summers was justifiable under the search warrant itself, that a search warrant for private premises allows a search of reasonable scope and intensity of persons present on the premises where the items particularized in the warrant might be found on the person.

Now, it is true that the officers in this case--

This would go to anybody who was on the premises?

Timothy A. Baughman:

--That's correct, anyone.

Under your theory, if there were, let us say, six or eight men in the house and, as the officers entered, all of them rushed toward the door and wanted to get out, they could be stopped long enough, on your theory, to fulfill the purposes of the warrant?