- May 23, 2017
- by Ben Adams
The criminal defense lawyer at the Sonoma County criminal law firm of Adams Fietz has reviewed the case of People v. Pou, filed May 23, 2017. In this case, the Court of Appeals considered the legality of a warrantless entry and search of a home by law enforcement officers. The Court concluded the officers’ initial entry and search was justified under the emergency aid exception to the warrant requirement.
In Brigham City v. Stuart (2006) 547 U.S. 398, 400 (Brigham City), the United States Supreme Court established the so-called emergency aid exception, holding that “police may enter a home without a warrant when they have an objectively reasonable basis for believing that an occupant is seriously injured or imminently threatened with such injury.”
Three years later, the Supreme Court provided additional guidance concerning application of the emergency aid exception in Michigan v. Fisher (2009) 558 U.S. 45 (Fisher). In Fisher, responding to a complaint of a disturbance involving a man “going crazy,” a police officer in Michigan entered defendant Fisher’s home without a warrant, which led to Fisher pointing a gun at the officer and Fisher’s consequent arrest for assault with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony.
The Supreme Court thus clarified that “‘[t]he role of a peace officer includes preventing violence and restoring order, not simply rendering first aid to casualties’.
Two years later, the California Supreme Court decided the Troyer case. There, the California Supreme Court emphasized that invocation of the emergency aid exception to justify a warrantless search only requires an objectively reasonable basis by law enforcement to believe that someone on the premises is in need of immediate aid. As the court explained, this approach is based on “some measure of pragmatism” in that, “[i]f there is a grave public need for the police to take preventive action, the Constitution may impose limits, but it will not bar the way.
The court in Troyer further noted that, in applying the objective reasonableness standard, the police may even permissibly make mistakes if objectively reasonable, explaining that “when we balance the nature of the intrusion on an individual’s privacy against the promotion of legitimate governmental interests in order to determine the reasonableness of a search in the circumstances of an emergency [citation], we must be mindful of what is at stake.” Accordingly, the California Supreme Court concluded that “[t]he possibility that immediate police action will prevent injury or death outweighs the affront to privacy when police enter the home under the reasonable but mistaken belief that an emergency exists.”
If your property has been searched by law enforcement in Sonoma County, call the criminal defense attorney at Adams Fietz for a free consultation.
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