American Bar Association
Media Alerts
Media Alerts - United States v. Allen
Decrease font size
Increase font size
February 1, 2016
  United States v. Allen
Case Name: United States v. Allen

Headline: Second Circuit Weighs in on Circuit Split, Ruling That Officers Must Obtain a Warrant Before Summoning a Suspect to the Door of his Home and Arresting Him

Area of Law:
Criminal Procedure - Fourth Amendment

Issue(s) Presented: Whether the Fourth Amendment permits warrantless "across the threshold" arrests in which law enforcement officers, while remaining outside a suspect's home, summon the suspect to the doorway and then arrest him.

Brief Summary: Dennis B. Allen Jr., was arrested after police officers - following up on an assault complaint - went to his apartment with the intention of arresting him for assault. They never sought a warrant for his arrest. Instead, the officers simply knocked on his door, and requested that Allen speak with them. Allen spoke with them for several minutes, remaining inside his house while the officers stood on the sidewalk. The officers then told Allen that he would need to come down to the police station to be processed for the assault. He asked them if he could go upstairs to put on shoes and advise his daughter that he was leaving; the officers said that he could only do so if accompanied by them. Upon accompanying him upstairs, they saw drug paraphernalia on his person and in the house, and then applied for and obtained a search warrant. While executing that warrant, the officers found a hand gun and more drug paraphernalia. He was ultimately charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, and entered a conditional guilty plea to the charge in the United States District Court for the District of Vermont. On appeal, Allen challenged the district court's refusal to suppress the firearm as well as the statements he had made, arguing that both were fruits of a warrantless in-home arrest. The Second Circuit agreed, reversing the denial of the suppression motion, vacating the conviction, and remanding for further proceedings. "[W]hen officers approach the door of the resident, announce their presence, and place the occupant under arrest when he or she, remaining inside the premises, opens the door in response to the police request, the arrest occurs inside the home, and therefore requires a warrant," explained the court. To read the whole decision, please visit

Extended Summary: On July 25 or 26, 2012, the Springfield, Vermont Police Department received a written complaint that on July 23, Dennis Allen had assaulted John Johnston. On July 27, four Springfield police officers went to Allen's apartment with a pre-formed plan to arrest him for the alleged assault. Despite having probable cause, and two days, the officers did not seek a warrant for Allen's arrest. The officers knocked on Allen's door, and Allen came down to speak to the officers, but remained "inside the threshold" while the officers stood on the sidewalk. Allen said he did not assault Johnston, but he had received numerous phone calls from him. Allen then showed the officers his call log. The officers then told Allen he needed to come down to the police station to be processed for assault. Allen said he needed to get his shoes and tell his 12-year-old daughter he would be leaving. The officers followed him inside, where they asked him if he had anything in his pockets. Allen took out several items, including seven bags of marijuana. Officers also saw various drug paraphernalia. Based on the drug paraphernalia that they saw inside the apartment the officers obtained and executed a warrant. While executing the warrant, the officers found a handgun and various drug paraphernalia. Allen was then rearrested on the federal charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

After Allen was indicted by a federal grand jury, he moved to suppress the firearm, and the statements he made, contending that both were fruits of a warrantless in-home arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The district court denied Allen's motion. The district court concluded that while Allen was arrested inside the threshold of his apartment, the officers were outside on the sidewalk. The court further reasoned that because Allen submitted to the officer's authority once he asked permission to receive his shoes and say goodbye to his daughter. The court then found that the police summoning Allen to his threshold did not trigger the rule announced by the Supreme Court in Payton v. New York. There, the Court held that police violated the Fourth Amendment by physically entering a home without a warrant to effect an arrest. The Payton Court went on to explain that officers can violate Payton when, in the absence of exigent circumstances or consent, they physically enter protected premises to effect a warrantless search or arrest.

The Second Circuit concluded that the underlying reasoning of Payton applied here. "If the rule of Payton, and the fundamental Fourth Amendment protection of the home on which it is based, are to retain their vitality, the rule must turn on the location of the defendant, not the officers, at the time of the rest," the court explained. Here, Allen never left his house, and the offices "asserted their power over him inside his home." In so holding, the Second Circuit rejected the conclusion of several other circuits - including the Eleventh, Seventh, and Fifth Circuits - that unless the police themselves cross the threshold of the home before arresting a suspect, a warrant is not required.

Panel (if known): Circuit Judges Sack, Lynch, and Lohier

Argument Date: December 5, 2013

Argument Location: New York, NY

Date of Issued Opinion: January 29, 2016

Docket Number: No. 13-3333-cr

Decided: Vacated and Remanded

Case Alert Author: Elizabeth Perreca

Counsel: David L. McColgin, Assistant Federal Public Defender, for Michael L. Desautels, Federal Public Defender for the District of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, for Defendant-Appellant
William B. Darrow, Assistant United States Attorney (Gregory L. Waples, Assistant United States Attorney, on the brief), for Tristram J. Coffin, United States Attorney for the District of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, for Appellee.

Author of Opinion:
Judge Gerard E. Lynch

Circuit: 2nd Circuit

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Emily Gold Waldman

    Posted By: Emily Waldman @ 02/01/2016 03:05 PM     2nd Circuit  

FuseTalk Enterprise Edition - © 1999-2018 FuseTalk Inc. All rights reserved.

Discussion Board Usage Agreement

Back to Top