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Carroll v. Carman 574 U.S. ___ (2014)

Justia Opinion Summary

Pennsylvania State Police received a report that Zita had stolen a car and loaded handguns and might have fled to the Carman home and sent Officers Carroll and Roberts to that home. The officers parked at the far rear of the corner-lot property, and walked toward the house. They saw a sliding glass door that opened onto a ground-level deck. Carroll thought the door "looked like a customary entryway," so he and Roberts decided to knock on it. As they stepped onto the deck, a man exited the house and "aggressively approached" them. The officers identified themselves, explained they were looking for Zita, and asked the man for his name. The man refused to answer, but turned away and appeared to reach for his waist. Carroll grabbed his arm to make sure he was not reaching for a weapon. He twisted away and fell into the yard. A woman came outside, identified herself as Karen Carman, identified the man as her husband, and stated that Zita was not there. Karen consented to a search. The officers searched the house, did not find Zita, then left. The Carmans sued under 42 U. S. C. 1983. Carroll argued that his entry was lawful under the "knock and talk" exception to the warrant requirement, which he contended, allows officers to knock on someone's door, so long as they stay "on those portions of [the] property that the general public is allowed to go on." The Carmans responded that a normal visitor would have gone to their front door. The jury returned a verdict for Carroll. The Third Circuit reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Carroll was entitled to qualified immunity. The Court declined to address whether an officer may conduct a "knock and talk" at any entrance that is open to visitors or only the front door, but stated that Carroll may reasonably have concluded that he was allowed to knock on any door that was open to visitors.

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