People v. Ibarguen


Issue: Does the Fourth Amendment protect social guests in another’s home from unreasonable police intrusions? 

Held: We’ll never know, since the majority dodged the issue by upholding the lower court’s summary denial of a Mapp hearing.  The defendant’s allegations in the motion papers swearing that he was “a lawful invitee” in the apartment the police searched, and that he received his mail at his friend’s apartment were insufficient to warrant a hearing.     

CAL Observes: The majority’s brief memorandum would be of little interest if not for Judge Wilson’s dissent, joined by Judge Rivera.  Judge Wilson accused the majority of affirming on a ground not decided by the lower courts and, in so doing, avoiding the important issues the case presented. First, he stated that the defendant had alleged sufficient facts under CPL 710.60 to get a hearing. He disputed, in light of Supreme Court caselaw, that “standing” was even the proper framework in this context and emphasized the need for hearings to develop the law in this unsettled area. 

Judge Wilson stressed the importance, both individually and to our democracy, of protecting the privacy rights of social guests, noting the adage that all great change in our country begins at the dinner table.  He reviewed the unsettled Supreme Court law in this area, lamenting that the majority’s decision erected dangerous obstacles for social or dinner guests to secure an evidentiary suppression hearing in the future.   

Ibarguen exemplifies the judicial philosophy of the Court’s current majority, at least in criminal justice matters. The Court appears to have little appetite for, or interest in, addressing large issues, invoking procedural bars to avoid deciding them or narrowing opportunities for future litigants (see, for example, this case, Blandford, and Wortham).  Nonetheless, Judge Wilson’s discussion of the history and importance of a social guest’s privacy rights signals to practitioners to develop this issue at the suppression stage.  At least Judge Wilson would want the Court to articulate the scope of such privacy right - although the outcome for the defense bar might not be the desired one.