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Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure: The Emergency Aid Exception to the Warrant Rule


Facts of the case: police officers responded to a complaint of the disturbance. The officers found a household in chaos, a pickup truck in driveway with its front smashed, to house had three broken windows and there was blood on the hood of the pickup.

The officers could see through a window that Mr. Fischer was screaming and throwing things. The officers knocked but Fisher refused to answer. They could see Fisher had a cut on his hand and asked if he needed medical attention. Fisher ignored questions and demanded that the officers get a search warrant.

One officer pushed the front door open and went into the house and there was Fischer pointing a gun at him.

Fischer was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm. The trial court concluded that the officer violated the fourth amendment when he entered Fischer’s house Suppressing the physical evidence.

The United States Supreme Court held that the ultimate touchstone of the fourth amendment is reasonableness. Searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable, but that presumption can be overcome.

The exigencies of the situation and make the needs of law enforcement so compelling that the warrantless search is objectively reasonable. It one such exigency is the need for law enforcement to assist persons who are seriously injured or threatened with such injury. Citing to Brigham City v. Stuart , 547 U.S. 398 (2006). Law enforcement may enter a home without a warrant to render emergency assistance to an injured occupant or to protect an occupant from imminent injury. The Court referred to this as the emergency aid exception.

The emergency aid exception does not depend on the officer subjective intent or the seriousness of any crime that are investigating. It requires only an objectively reasonable basis for believing that a person within the house is in need of immediate aid.

Supreme Court found that the officers entry was reasonable under the fourth amendment reasoning that the role of a peace officer includes preventing violence and restoring order not simply rendering first Aid to casualties. It was reasonable to believe that Fischer had hurt himself and needed treatment or that Fischer was about to hurt or had already hurt someone else.