Police officers entered petitioner's home, where they arrested and searched him. The officers had neither an arrest warrant nor a search warrant. Without deciding whether exigent circumstances had been present, the Louisiana Court of Appeal concluded that the warrantless entry, arrest, and search did not violate the Fourth Amendment of the Federal Constitution because there had been probable cause to arrest petitioner. 00-0190 (La. App. 11/15/00), 773 So.2d 259. The court's reasoning plainly violates our holding in Payton
On an evening in March 1998, police officers observed petitioner's apartment based on an anonymous citizen complaint that drug sales were occurring there. After witnessing what appeared to be several drug purchases and allowing the buyers to leave the scene, the officers stopped one of the buyers on the street outside petitioner's residence. The officers later testified that "[b]ecause the stop took place within a block of the apartment, [they] feared that evidence would be destroyed and ordered that the apartment be entered." 00-0190, at 2, 773 So. 2d, at 261. Thus, "[t]hey immediately knocked on the door of the apartment, arrested the defendant, searched him thereto and discovered the cocaine and the money." Id., at 4, 773 So. 2d, at 263. Although the officers sought and obtained a search warrant while they detained petitioner in his home, they only obtained this warrant after they had entered his home, arrested him, frisked him, found a drug vial in his underwear, and observed contraband in plain view in the apartment.
Based on these events, petitioner was charged in a Louisiana court with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He filed a pretrial motion to suppress evidence obtained by the police as a result of their warrantless entry, arrest, and search. After holding a suppression hearing, the trial court denied this motion. Petitioner was convicted and sentenced to 15 years at hard labor.
On direct review to the Louisiana Court of Appeal, petitioner challenged the trial court's suppression ruling. He argued that the police were not justified in entering his home
The Louisiana Supreme Court denied review by a vote of 4 to 3. In a written dissent, Chief Justice Calogero explained:
We agree with Chief Justice Calogero that the Court of Appeal clearly erred by concluding that petitioner's arrest and the search "incident thereto," 00-0190, at 4, 773 So. 2d, at 263, were constitutionally permissible. In Payton, we examined whether the Fourth Amendment was violated by a state statute that authorized officers to "enter a private residence without a warrant and with force, if necessary, to make a routine felony arrest." 445 U. S., at 574. We determined
Here, the police had neither an arrest warrant for petitioner, nor a search warrant for petitioner's apartment, when they entered his home, arrested him, and searched him. The officers testified at the suppression hearing that the reason for their actions was a fear that evidence would be destroyed, but the Louisiana Court of Appeal did not determine that such exigent circumstances were present. Rather, the court, in respondent's own words, determined "that the defendant's argument that there were no exigent circumstances to justify the warrantless entry of the apartment was irrelevant" to the constitutionality of the officers' actions. Brief in Opposition 2-3. As Payton makes plain, police officers need either a warrant or probable cause plus exigent circumstances in order to make a lawful entry into a home. The Court of Appeal's ruling to the contrary, and consequent failure to assess whether exigent circumstances were present in this case, violated Payton.
Petitioner and respondent both dispute at length whether exigent circumstances were, in fact, present. We express no opinion on that question, nor on respondent's argument that any Fourth Amendment violation was cured because the police had an "independent source" for the recovered evidence. Brief in Opposition 8. Rather, we reverse the Court of Appeal's judgment that exigent circumstances were not required to justify the officers' conduct, and remand for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.