A man, dressed in a navy hooded jacket and a white painter’s mask, approached Laura Rigdon at the Bank of Jones County and demanded money. $1,040.00 in various denominations were handed to the masked man who shoved the money in his pocket and then left. Rigdon told the police officers that she recognized the robber’s voice as Jimmy Hutto’s, one of the bank’s customers.
She said she saw Hutto drive away in a blue Ford Taurus. Officers headed to Hutto’s house, where they saw a blue Mercury Sable—the same car as the Ford Taurus, sold under the Mercury brand. Hutto was at home and told the officers he had not gone anywhere that day.
But the muffler of his car was warm from being recently driven. Officer Robert Russell told Hutto that he was going to do a quick safety sweep of the house to make sure no one else was there. Inside, Russell saw a Colt .45 lying in plain view on top of Hutto’s dresser. Russell unloaded the gun and placed it in his pocket.
Officer Wayne McLemore took Hutto into custody and drove him to the police station. While being booked, Hutto reluctantly removed $1,040.00 in various bills from his pocket.
Police investigator Christy Carona executed the search warrant on Hutto’s house. She found shoved in Hutto’s trash can, under a newspaper, a navy hooded jacket and a white painter’s mask. Hutto was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 5 years. On appeal, he argued officers entered into his home without a search warrant. MCOA affirms.
Russell and McLemore had probable cause to make a warrantless arrest of Hutto, based on Rigdon’s identification of Hutto as the robber and the fact that Hutto’s car—which showed signs of being recently driven—matched the description of the getaway car.
One established exception to the Fourth amendment permits police to conduct a protective sweep of the area around an arrest scene. In Charles, the Federal 5th Circuit stated that this protective sweep may be no more than a cursory inspection of those spaces where a person may be found and may last no longer than is necessary to dispel the reasonable suspicion of danger nor longer than the police are justified in remaining on the premises.
We find Russell’s protective sweep of Hutto’s house falls within the protective sweep exception. When Russell and McLemore arrived at Hutto’s house to arrest him, Russell made a cursory inspection inside to make sure no one else was in the home. He only looked in areas where a person could be hiding.
And he did not stay in the house longer than necessary but instead went back outside and waited for a search warrant before a more thorough search was conducted. The pistol was in plain view.
In Godbold, the MSC said that it has long been settled that objects falling in the plain view of an officer who has a right to be in the position to have that view are subject to seizure and may be introduced into evidence.