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Case Basics
Docket No. 
New York
No. 78-5421, Riddick v. New York
(on behalf of the Appellants)
(on behalf of the Appellee)
Facts of the Case 

New York City police suspected Theodore Payton of murdering a gas station manager. The police forcibly entered Payton's home thinking he was there (he was not) and found evidence connecting Payton to the crime, which was introduced at Payton's trial. The police lacked an arrest warrant when they entered his home. However, they acted under a New York law allowing police to enter a private residence to make a felony arrest without a warrant. At trial, Payton unsuccessfully sought to suppress the evidence as the fruit of an illegal search. State courts upheld. In the companion case, victims identified Obie Riddick in June 1973 for robberies in 1971. Police learned of his whereabouts in 1974. Without a warrant, they knocked on his door, entered his residence and arrested him. A search for weapons revealed illegal drugs. He was indicted on narcotics charges but sought the suppression of the evidence based on a warrantless entry. The trial judge concluded that the entry was authorized by the New York law and that the search was therefore permissible. Riddick was convicted. The appeals court affirmed.


Does New York statute authorizing warrantless arrests and searches violate the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures?

Decision: 6 votes for Payton, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 4: Fourth Amendment

Yes. Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the 6 to 3 majority, held that the Fourth Amendment, as applied to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, "prohibits the police from making a warrantless and nonconsensual entry into a suspect's home in order to make a routine felony arrest." Warrantless arrests and searches went to the core of the Fourth Amendment's protection of privacy in a citizen's dwelling. This protection was too important to be violated on the basis of a police officer's on-the-spot decision regarding probable cause. In the absence of special circumstances, a search of a residence is permissible only after a finding of probable cause by a neutral magistrate issuing a search warrant. Justice Byron R. White, joined by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Justice William H. Rehnquist, dissented. White maintained that common law and practice prior to and at the time the Fourth Amendment was adopted did not limit a police officer's inherent power to arrest or search.

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PAYTON v. NEW YORK. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 31 July 2015. <>.
PAYTON v. NEW YORK, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited July 31, 2015).
"PAYTON v. NEW YORK," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed July 31, 2015,