Domestic Scanario (warrantless search)

Discussion in 'Cop Talk' started by obxemt, Jan 3, 2010.

  1. obxemt

    obxemt Chaplain of CT

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    You are dispatched to a 911 call for a domestic in progress. A neighbor heard loud screaming and is concerned for the safety of the two people inside the house. It is early afternoon and the two houses are separated by about 40 feet. The neighbor heard yelling inside his/her house and the reported domestic is happening inside the other house. Everyone's windows are closed.

    You arrive and hear a heated argument inside from the road when you exit your car (25-30 feet away). As you approach, you hear banging and yelling, cursing, etc. You knock on the door and everything goes silent. Your partner shows up about two minutes later. Someone peers out the blinds at you at the door, and closes them quickly when you make eye contact.

    You continue to knock on the door and identify yourself, telling them to come to the door.

    Question A - If this is all you had, what would you do?

    As you knock, the door, which is old and unlocked, pops open on its own about three inches. You see inside that many items are overturned and broken, and there are beer cans on the floor.

    Question B - What now?

    I maintain that given the totality of the circumstances, at point "A" if they won't answer, you have enough to force entry to verify that no one is dead or injured based upon the specifics of this case, as well as domestic violence training and experience with domestic assaults. It might be "aggressive," as far as search and seizure goes, and would likely be challenged in court if there actually was an assault, but I maintain it is perfectly legal under "exigent circumstances" or "emergency aid" exceptions.

    At point "B" I think that there is no question, if they refuse to come to the door, you can go in to check for possible victims of an assault.

    This hypothetical situation hypothetically took place before a recent Supreme Court decision, which I think backs me up on my thinking in both instances, provided that I articulate it as I did above. The decision says that "the warrantless search is objectively reasonable...[when there is] the need to assist persons who are seriously injured or threatened with such injury." I maintain that the average non-police-officer citizen would find a warrantless search only for possible victims to be objectively reasonable.

    http://www.officer.com/online/article.jsp?siteSection=1&id=49859

    What do you think?
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2010
  2. Dragoon44

    Dragoon44 Unfair Facist Lifetime Member

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    I would agree with you. in fact I had a very similar real situation that was much as you described. the only difference being the husband came to the door but refused to allow us entry. Looking past him I could see the living room was trashed from what appeared to have been a fight. ( consistent with the neighbor who called account. He told us to get the hell off his property and tried to slam the door. The end result being him getting knocked on his *** in his living room.

    Once inside there was a blood trail leading from the living room to a bathroom in a hallway. there we found his wife unconscious and bleeding.
     

  3. 4949shooter

    4949shooter

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    Exigent circumstances.
     
  4. madcitycop

    madcitycop

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    I think in this scenario the only thing that is not in your favor is that the door opened so you dont get to kick it :)
     
  5. Kahr_Glockman

    Kahr_Glockman

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    Thanks for posting. I just forwarded it to all of my co-wokers
     
  6. G-man

    G-man Millennium Member

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    Dude, your covered...I would have no problem forcing entry in either of those instances to check the well being.

    G-man
    1*
     
  7. Sharkey

    Sharkey

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    Ditto what everyone else says. I guess some judge could rule against it but it doesn't really matter at the time you get the call.
     
  8. Patchman

    Patchman Florist

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    In fact if you didn't enter to investigate, you'd be negligent. Gun out, of course.

    I always approach a door with my baton out. This way, when the door opens a crack, I stick my baton in the crack, so if the door gets slammed shut from the inside, it won't close on me.
     
  9. Sam Spade

    Sam Spade Staff Member Lifetime Member

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    Add me to the group in favor of entry. You have all the authority you need.
     
  10. Narc1911

    Narc1911 Anchora Salutis

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    I have made forced entry in similar circumstance many times.
     
  11. 9L82

    9L82 Caffeine Addled

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    No issues, I agree with Patchman, I'd have a problem with my guys if they didn't enter. You have to be more concerned about doing your job than about getting sued. Have a "pure heart" and there ain't much they cn do about it anyway.
     
  12. Hack

    Hack Crazy CO Gold Member

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    Not a street cop myself, as you know, but I am familiar with the basic laws concerning this. I would definitely enter, with back up with me on exigent circumstances.

    This is also one of the reasons why I did not become one. I hated possibly dealing with domestics, given the injuries possible from those for an officer, or the children being involved and being hurt from them. After seeing hurt children, calling for social services, I would be wanting to start administering the board of education to someone's seat of learning, (not the kids).
     
  13. obxemt

    obxemt Chaplain of CT

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    Thank you all for your responses.

    What prompted the "question" is that I was challenged by an assistant supervisor, who told me flat out that I was wrong, and that I could be sued for screwing up. It was a real surprise coming from him, as pro-active as he is. I politely disagreed and laid out my opinion as to why he was wrong. I also expressed concern at possible negligence for not acting. The supervisor backed me 100% and said he would have had no problem with us kicking the door at point "A" and he was even more satisfied at point "B."

    My response to an unsubstantiated report of a domestic would not be the same. If I respond and hear nothing, I'm not going to go kicking doors in just based on a 911 call. He was rather insistent that that was "all we had" and there was no "exigency." Needless to say, I disagree.

    What actually happened was that my partner (first on scene) told them that if they didn't come out, we were coming in, after the door popped open. The male became irate upon hearing that, and came out, but told us we weren't going in. He was cuffed and detained and told why we were, in fact, making entry. There were three kids inside (plus the female) holed up in the back bedroom, and they said that they had been "trained" to do that and keep quiet during fights when they lived in another state.

    I asked what happened during those fights...they said that every time, "the police would just go away" when no one came to the door. The male played street lawyer the whole time and told me what an idiot I was for the way it was handled and that my blatant disregard for his rights and my misunderstanding of exigent circumstances would "make me sorry." He "commanded" me to take the cuffs off (he actually used that word) and told me when I could leave because we could no longer legally justify our presence. :rofl: Needless to say he was uncuffed and we left as soon as the investigation was complete.

    I was more than confident in what we did (and would have been more than confident in going in at point "A"), and told the assistant supervisor that I would do it again in a heartbeat. So, when the supreme court decision came out a few weeks later, in my opinion affirming both my position and already extant case law, I printed it and place in everyone's mailbox.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2010
  14. 9L82

    9L82 Caffeine Addled

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    Good work!

    Nothing like a boss second guessing cops who are there and have to make the call. As long as you can justify what was going through your mind at the time and you had a reason, no boss should say squat when their guys are trying to do their job!
     
  15. The-Fly

    The-Fly The Bofh

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    All you JBT's make things so hard.............

    I'd just call for an air strike and call it a day. :supergrin:





    [​IMG]
     
  16. obxemt

    obxemt Chaplain of CT

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    What's so damn funny is that the assistant supervisor is on the road taking calls and making good arrests every single day. He's a cop's cop, yet he was my detractor. The supervisor who is less than a year from retirement and hasn't worn a uniform or taken a call in a decade is the one who supported me without question! :rofl:
     
  17. 9L82

    9L82 Caffeine Addled

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    Maybe the Assistant Supervisor is practicing to be Chief....(had to beat Dragoon to it)
     
  18. ctaggart

    ctaggart

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    You're acting in good faith. You're good.
     
  19. Sam Spade

    Sam Spade Staff Member Lifetime Member

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    Your only error. Somewhere, there was a statute with his name on it. :whistling:
     
  20. Dragoon44

    Dragoon44 Unfair Facist Lifetime Member

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    you got it, in my state it would be disturbing the peace. A subsection under "You might beat the rap, but you won't beat the ride."

    On second thought re reading the post it would probably just be DV based on the evidence at the scene of the house having been trashed in a fight.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2010