United States v. Correa 7thCIR 5NOV2018

United States v. Correa 7thCIR 5NOV2018

Every once in a while, we get one of those cases where a LEO is investigating criminal activity and ends up in possession of a set of keys.  Of course, the next step is to find out which door the key will open. Is that a search under the Fourth Amendment?  When the LEO has to physically touch the door, the Jones definition of a search (what I call a Jones Search) is at play because of the physical intrusion.  But what about the use of a garage door opener?  What if a LEO seizes a garage door opener and drives around Chicago pushing the button to see which garage door opens? Whether or not that action is a Fourth Amendment search should hinge on the Katz privacy-based definition of a search (Katz Search).  But the court in this case took a bizarre turn in their analysis.

Members of a Drug Enforcement Agency task force lawfully found drugs in a traffic stop and seized several garage openers and keys they also found in the car. An agent took the garage openers and drove around downtown Chicago pushing their buttons to look for a suspected stash house. He found the right building when the door of a shared garage opened. The agent then used a seized key fob and mailbox key to enter the building’s locked lobby and pinpoint the target condominium. At the agent’s request, another agent sought and obtained the arrestee’s consent to search the target condo. The search turned up extensive evidence of drug trafficking … which the defendant to sought to have excluded.

The court reached the conclusion that the use of the garage door opener and mailbox key to identify the unit was a search under the Fourth Amendment … but it was reasonable.  It is a strange opinion where the court reaches the right result but for the wrong reason.  I would not recommend using this case as a guideline on the proper Fourth Amendment analysis in any other circuit except the Seventh Circuit.

I’m doing a Broadcast Blue episode on this one!

To read or download the full opinion CLICK HERE.