Everyone knows that the police can’t enter your home without a warrant in most cases, but there are always exceptions. Obviously, if you invite the police into your home or if they see someone being held hostage over your shoulder when you answer your door, they can then act without a warrant, but there are many more exceptions as well, especially in situations which are considered exigent circumstances in California. If you aren’t sure if your rights were violated during a warrantless search of your property, criminal lawyer Peter M. Liss can help you fight to have the evidence uncovered during the search suppressed from your case.
Understanding Exigent Circumstances in California
Under federal law, police are given permission to search a property without a warrant if exigent circumstances apply. The problem with these types of situations is that there is no hard and fast rule about what does or does not qualify as such a situation. That’s where your attorney comes in.
Exigent circumstances in California are, essentially, pressing situations in which the police must act immediately. If, for example, an officer hears a chainsaw and a woman screaming, she can act immediately, because waiting to get a warrant could result in a woman being injured or even murdered. While that’s an extreme example, even this situation could be questionable. If it turns out that someone was chopping down a tree in the backyard while someone else was watching a horror movie with a woman screaming, then the officer did not actually need to act immediately. Even so, if something illegal was found in the home, the prosecution would likely argue that the officer still was acting under exigent circumstances and in California, the evidence may still be permitted as a result. To keep the evidence out of the case, the defendant’s lawyer would need to explain that the police officer acted without a valid reason and that an average person would recognize that no one was actually in danger.
Evidence Destruction and Exigent Circumstances in California
A far more common situation arises when police knock on a suspect’s door and believe they hear a paper shredder or toilet flushing. In these situations, the police may act if they believe paper evidence is being shredded or drugs are being flushed down the toilet. This is when the legal concept of exigent circumstances in California becomes very complex as there are ample legal reasons for a person to be shredding paper or flushing a toilet. Even if the police did find something during these searches, a defense attorney can often prove that their reason for entering the home was not within the scope of the law and, thus, any evidence uncovered during the search cannot be used against the defendant.
Always Insist on a Warrant
If the police request to enter or search your residence, person or property without a warrant, you should politely decline. Do not struggle with them if the police insist on searching, just make sure you tell them it is over your objection.
As you can tell, in California, exigent circumstances can become incredibly complex and it is ultimately up to the judge to determine whether the evidence was procured in a legal manner. That’s why it is so important you always work with a top lawyer in Vista, such as Peter M. Liss. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a free initial consultation, please call (760) 643-4050.
Creative Commons Image by West Midlands Police