• Court Upholds Protective Sweep of Room While Suspect Detained Outside
  • February 13, 2013 | Author: G. Ross Trindle
  • Law Firm: Best Best & Krieger LLP - Los Angeles Office
  • Overview: A California court of appeal recently held that police officers may conduct a protective sweep of a detained suspect’s motel room if they have reason to believe a dangerous person may be hiding inside the room. The court rejected the argument that only protective sweeps accompanying an arrest outside the residence were permissible. Before sweeping the room, the motel manager had revealed information about the suspect that was consistent with drug sales. The officers had also heard multiple voices inside and the suspect stated that the room contained a weapon. Based on these facts, there was reasonable suspicion to support a protective sweep for officer safety purposes.

    Training Points: This case shows the importance of reporting specific facts to support reasonable suspicion for a protective sweep incident to a suspect’s detention. The case also shows that a protective sweep can be initiated after a detention and not just a full arrest of a suspect. Remember that protective sweeps are generally limited to areas immediately around the suspect and areas where the suspect had immediate access or where a dangerous person could hide. Further, evidence discovered “in plain view” during a protective sweep may be admissible if the sweep was legally justified. More extensive searches for contraband or evidence of criminal activity will likely require a warrant.

    Summary Analysis: In People v. Ikeda, police tracked a stolen laptop, equipped with GPS, to Ikeda’s motel. The motel manager said that Ikeda changed rooms every day and left a key at the front desk for a woman “who came and went.” The officers determined that this conduct was consistent with the sale of narcotics. One officer heard multiple voices in the room before knocking on the front door; another detained Ikeda as he tried to leave through a back slider door to the parking lot. Ikeda admitted that there was a BB gun in the room, but denied that anyone else was inside the room. For officer safety, the officers swept the room, finding a scale, drugs and cash in plain view. Ikeda argued that this evidence should have been suppressed. The court disagreed, finding that the manager’s statements, the sound of voices and the presence of a BB gun supported a reasonable suspicion that a person inside the room threatened officer safety.