Friday, February 08, 2019

Illegal Seizure of Defendant's Home Invalidated Later Consent to Search

United States v. Shrum, 908 F.3d 1219 (10th Cir. 2018) (KS): 10th Circuit reverses the denial of a suppression motion in a firearms case. Believing his 30 year old wife had overdosed, Shrum called 911. Police and paramedics went to the house and took her to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. Police later told Shrum the coroner would need the medication his wife was taking. Shrum said he would go to house and get it. Police accompanied Shrum to the house. When they arrived Shrum was not allowed inside. Police asked Shrum for consent to search the house for the medication. He agreed. Inside the investigator found firearms and ammunition.

The panel’s analysis focused on a person’s possessory interests in property: a Fourth Amendment seizure occurs when there is some meaningful government interference with an individual’s possessory interests in property. It held Shrum’s consent was invalid because it was obtained as a result of the initial illegal seizure of his home. The panel said that without valid consent the warrantless seizure of Shrum’s home, even if there was probable cause, is per se unreasonable. Since the government did not suggest there were exigent circumstances, the officer had no reason to seize and then enter the home. Shrum demonstrated a casual connection between the illegal seizure and the evidence taken from the home because ‘but for’ the investigator’s illegal entry into the home, he would have never seen the firearms and ammunition used for the federal prosecution.