7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Case Name: United States of America v. Tyrone Maxwell
Case No.: 22-2135
Officials: Rovner, Hamilton, and Brennan, Circuit Judges.
Focus: Suppression of Evidence-Warrantless Search
Two individuals approached a neighboring unit, explaining that they were attempting to contact the resident of Apartment 7. Despite being allowed entry by neighbors, gunshots were heard shortly after. Concerned, the neighbors promptly dialed 9-1-1. Upon police arrival, evidence of the gunshots was discovered, including bullet holes in Apartment 7’s door, shell casings on the stairs, and an empty gun holster. Fearing that someone inside might need assistance, officers called for an ambulance, unsuccessfully attempted to establish contact with anyone within, and tried manual door opening. Resorting to a sledgehammer, the police managed to breach the door, fracturing it, splintering the doorjamb, and overcoming the deadbolt within 10 minutes.
Upon gaining access, the police immediately detected the odor of raw cannabis and observed loose cannabis. Sergeant Barksdale entered a bedroom, discovered a large closet, and, upon opening it, found cannabis. In the living room, another large closet revealed a rifle after Sergeant Barksdale pushed aside clothing. The entire search process took approximately 90 seconds. Maxwell, the resident, arrived subsequently, prompting the police to secure a search warrant. Subsequent exploration yielded two firearms, over 10 pounds of marijuana, and $75,000 in cash.
Following the denial of his motion to suppress, Maxwell entered a conditional guilty plea to charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and possession of firearms as a felon. The Seventh Circuit upheld the decision, asserting that the police had an objectively reasonable basis to believe someone inside was injured, their entry did not result in excessive or unnecessary damage, and the search was limited to areas where an injured person could potentially be located.