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Warrantless Searches: There Must Be Exigent Circumstances To Justify A Forced Warrantless Entry Into A Home


criminal appeals lawyer, fourth amendment, search and seizure, warrantless search, illegal search and seizure

People v. Chamlee

2014 NY Slip Op 05921

Appellate Division, First Department

Decided on: August 21, 2014

Summary Denial Of A Suppression Hearing Is Improper Where Prosecution Provides Limited Information Concerning The Basis For Defendant’s Arrest

Blog By: Stephen N. Preziosi ESQ., Criminal Appeals Lawyer

Issue: Whether exigent circumstances existed justifying the officers forced warrantless entry into Defendant’s apartment where the Officers based their pursuit on observation of individuals outside the home allegedly smoking marijuana then racing into the apartment.

Summary: Undercover officers observed four men outside smoking marijuana. The officers identified themselves to the individuals, which caused the men to run into an apartment and lock the door. One of the officers claimed that he heard a male voice say, “Hide the gun.” Based on these facts, the officers broke down the door to gain entry into the apartment where they observed drugs and paraphernalia. The officers then obtained a search warrant. Defense asked the court for a suppression hearing; that motion was denied. The court held that exigent circumstances justified the pursuit and warrantless entry, based upon the individuals smoking marijuana in the hallway and then racing into the apartment and locking the door. The court held that the officers’ actions justified the need to prevent the destruction of evidence. Defendant appealed to the Appellate Division for the First Department where the appeal was held in abeyance pending a hearing. The Appellate Division held that a Mapp/Dunaway hearing should have been held where there was a question of whether Defendant had actually engaged in criminal activity requiring a warrantless search of his apartment.

See Also: Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause: Limiting Cross-Examination Of Accomplice Witness Violates Confrontation Clause

Holding: The Appellate Division for the First Department held that the trial court should have conducted a hearing to determine whether there were exigent circumstances to justify the forced warrantless entry and held that a Mapp/Dunaway hearing should have been held.

Facts: Undercover officers observed four men outside smoking marijuana. The officers identified themselves to the individuals, which caused the men to run into an apartment and lock the door. One of the officers claimed that he heard a male voice say, “Hide the gun.” Based on these facts, the officers broke down the door to gain entry into the apartment where they observed drugs and paraphernalia. The officers then obtained a search warrant. Defense asked the court for a hearing; that motion was denied.

The trial court held that exigent circumstances justified the pursuit and warrantless entry, based upon the individuals smoking marijuana in the hallway and then racing into the apartment and locking the door. The court held that the officers’ actions justified the need to prevent the destruction of evidence.  Defendant argues that at most some individuals were seen smokingDefendant appealed to the Appellate Division for the First Department where it was held in abeyance. The Appellate Division held that a Mapp/Dunaway hearing should have been held where there was a question of whether Defendant had actually engaged in criminal activity warranting a seizure.

Legal Analysis: The Appellate Division for the First Department held that the trial court should have conducted a hearing to determine whether there was sufficient exigent circumstances to justify the forced warrantless entry and held that a Mapp/Dunaway hearing should have been held where there was a question of whether the Defendant had actually engaged in criminal activity warranting a seizure.

Defendant moved to suppress the contraband found in his apartment on the grounds that the paraphernalia and gun were obtained as a result of an illegal search of his apartment. Defendant also sought a hearing, but the Supreme Court denied both applications finding that Defendant’s motion did not contain sworn allegations of fact sufficient to warrant a suppression hearing. Defendant denied engaging in any criminal activity at the time he was observed by the officers in the hallway outside his apartment before being chased into the apartment. The facts that were in the search warrant application was that the police obtained one after the forced entry; which were not available to the Defendant at the time he moved for a hearing.

     The Appellate Division held that, under the circumstances in this case, where the information proffered by the People to support the forced entry was conclusory and Defendant did not have access to the available information, the Appellate Division held that it the trial court should have conducted a hearing to determine whether there were specific exigent circumstances to justify the forced warrantless entry, People v. Bryant, 8 NY3d 530 2007, holding that a Mapp/Dunaway hearing should have been held where there was a question of whether Defendant had actually engaged in criminal activity warranting a seizure.

The Appellate Division for the First Department held the appeal in abeyance and the matter was remanded for a suppression hearing.


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