State v. Pierre
The defendant did not have an expectation of privacy in the attic space of a six unit rooming house that society would recognize as reasonable given his lack of control over the open attic located in a common area and unfettered public access to the interior of the building. Stamford police officers responded to a report of a disturbance involving a gun at a rooming house. The officers entered the building through the unlocked back door and found Clerde Pierre in the third floor hallway near his room. The officers conducted a search and found the gun in an attic space above a third floor alcove with a bag containing smaller bags of marijuana. Pierre gave a formal statement implicating himself as their owner. The trial court denied Pierre's motion to suppress the items as products of an unlawful search finding that the defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the attic. Following a jury trial, Pierre was convicted of crimes including criminal possession of a pistol and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. He appealed claiming that the court improperly denied his motion to suppress. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. Attempting to define the "home" in the context of a rooming house must be done cautiously to ensure that the protections of the fourth amendment are afforded to citizens in a class neutral manner. The structure's nature was critical to the determination of where within the rooming house the defendant had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The rooming house had law offices on the first floor and six rental units on the second and third floors accessed through the back door, usually unlocked until late at night. The third floor fire escape landing was an access point and modified porch. The fire escape door opened into the alcove where the attic opening was located. The caution against finding a reasonable expectation of privacy in a place open and accessible to others in the 1995 Appellate Court case of State v. Torres, concerning an apartment building hallway, was applicable here. The defendant could not restrict the landlord's agents, deliverypersons or others from passing below, peering or climbing into the unlocked and open attic. The defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the attic.