United States v. Santana

PETITIONER:United States
LOCATION: Mom Santana’s House

DOCKET NO.: 75-19
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 427 US 38 (1976)
ARGUED: Apr 27, 1976
DECIDED: Jun 24, 1976

Dennis H. Eisman – Argued the cause for the respondent
Frank H. Easterbrook – Argued the cause for the United States pro hac vice

Facts of the case

Using marked money, police officers made an undercover heroin buy from a third party who, upon taking money from the officers, entered “Mom Santana’s” house and emerged with heroin. Officers then arrested the third party and returned to Santana’s house where they identified themselves as police officers, entered the house after Santana fled into it from the porch, and, after ordering her to empty her pockets, discovered some of the marked money. The search was done without a warrant.


Did the search violate the Fourth Amendment?

Media for United States v. Santana

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – April 27, 1976 in United States v. Santana

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 24, 1976 in United States v. Santana

William H. Rehnquist:

In number 75-19, United States against Santana involves a search and seizure question that comes to us from the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

In August of 1974, an undercover police officer arranged to purchase heroin from one McCafferty.

He drove with McCafferty to a place called 2311 North Fifth Street in Philadelphia where McCafferty took a $110 in marked bills and went inside, indicating that she was going to get the dope from one known as Mom Santana.

McCafferty soon returned to the car and they drove off.

McCafferty turned over several glassine envelopes containing a brownish-white powder which was later found to be heroin.

At this point, about a block-and-a-half from the Santana house, the officer stopped the car and arrested McCafferty, he asked her where the money was.

She said, “Mom has the money.”

This information was passed on to other officers who proceeded to the North Fifth Street address.

They saw respondent Santana, known to them as Mom Santana, standing in the doorway of her house.

When they pulled up and identified themselves, she attempted to flee into the house.

She was apprehended in the Westerville and found to have both heroin and some marked money in her possession.

The District Court granted respondent Mom Santana’s motion to suppress the evidence.

Though it found that there were strong probable cause to arrest Santana and that the police acted under extreme emergency conditions.

The Court of Appeals affirmed without opinion.

We reversed the Court of Appeals in United States against Watson, decided earlier this term.

We held that the warrantless arrest of an individual in a public place did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Since Santana by standing in her doorway was not in the area where she had any expectation of privacy, we hold that she was in public for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment and consequently a warrantless arrest was proper under Watson.

Her act of retreating into the house may not thwart an otherwise valid arrest, rather the police are entitled to follow her inside under the hot pursuit doctrine of Warden against Hayden.

Since the arrest was valid, the property ceased pursuant to that arrest should not have been suppressed.

The Chief Justice and Justices Stewart, White, Blackmun, Powell and Stevens joined this opinion, but Mr. Justice White has filed a concurring opinion.

Mr. Justice Stevens has filed a concurring opinion in which Mr. Justice Stewart joins.

Mr. Justice Marshall has filed a dissenting opinion in which Mr. Justice Brennan joins.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Rehnquist.