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CAN YOU DETAIN A SEARCH WARRANT TARGET AWAY FROM THE TARGET LOCATION?

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The Michigan Court of Appeals, relying on Michigan v Summers, 452 US 692 (1981), has ruled that the target of a search warrant may be detained even if the target is not at the location of the search warrant.

The case involved the search of a home where the target lived with his wife and 2 small children.  The officers, not wanting to scare the children, decided to wait until the target left the home and then stopped him.  Once stopped, the target admitted to having marijuana in the home.  The officer then went back to the home with the target and had the wife and children removed to another location prior to the search.

The defendant argued that Summers only allowed for the detention of a target at the location of the search.  It does not allow for detention at a remote location.  The Appeals court disagreed; the Court said: “We consider whether the police detained the individual as soon as practicable after observing him leave the residence.”

While the language used does not explicitly say “totality of the circumstances” one would be safe in conducting such a stop to consider the “totality of the circumstance.”  A stop a few blocks away after a target leaves the residence would most likely be fine.  A stop 2 days later in another town is not going to pass muster.

The take away here is that you must be close in time and distance to make the stop away from the target location, and that no good deed goes unpunished.  Wanting to protect innocent children is a noble thought, but it might get the evidence thrown out of court if you wait too long after the target leaves the residence.

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