Terry Stop Inside a Home Requires Exigent Circumstances
The government may not conduct the equivalent of a Terry stop inside a person’s home without exigent circumstances, the Eleventh Circuit held this week.
Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Pederson responded to a caller’s report that a male and two females were yelling at one another outside an apartment building. When Pederson arrived at the apartment complex, the caller identified Evan Moore’s apartment as the place where the man and one of the women had gone.
Pederson knocked on the door and Moore opened it, wearing only a towel. Pederson saw two women inside the apartment, one naked and one clothed, neither expressing distress. Pederson did not know whether “a domestic violence situation” existed in the apartment and he investigated further.
At the apartment door, Pederson asked Moore to provide his name and identification, multiple times. After his multiple refusals, Moore says Pederson handcuffed him from within the apartment and took him to the police station.
Moore filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action for unlawful arrest against Pederson. The district court granted Pederson summary judgement on all Moore’s claims. Moore then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Defending against the appeal, Pederson contended he had probable cause to arrest Moore for his alleged violation of a state statute making it illegal to resist an officer without violence. For this argument to prevail, the Eleventh Circuit wrote in its decision, the court would need to conclude that Moore had refused to provide his identification to Pederson during a lawful Terry stop.
But, just as an officer may not enter a home for the purpose of effecting a warrantless arrest unless that officer has both probable cause and either consent or exigent circumstances, the Eleventh Circuit held an officer could not enter an apartment to detain a person on reasonable, articulable suspicion – the standard for conducting a Terry stop, which is “a much lower standard than probable cause”– without either consent or exigent circumstances, writing, “[t]hat just makes no sense to us.”
So, because Pederson had neither consent or exigent circumstances to justify his entry into Moore’s apartment, his seizing Moore from within the apartment would have constituted a violation of Moore’s Fourth Amendment rights. Regardless, while the case clearly established the court’s holding in the Eleventh Circuit, the court found Pederson was not liable for Moore’s § 1983 claim, under the doctrine of qualified immunity.
Read the full case: Moore v. Pederson
This case law update was written by James P. Garay Heelan, associate attorney, Shaw Bransford & Roth, PC.
For thirty years, Shaw Bransford & Roth P.C. has provided superior representation on a wide range of federal employment law issues, from representing federal employees nationwide in administrative investigations, disciplinary and performance actions, and Bivens lawsuits, to handling security clearance adjudications and employment discrimination cases
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