Officers responded to a disturbance complaint. One officer testified that, “as he and his partner approached the area, a couple directed them to a residence where a man was ‘going crazy.’” Upon their arrival, the officers found a truck in the driveway with its front smashed, damaged fence posts, and three broken house windows. The officers also noticed blood on the hood of the truck, on clothes inside of it, and on one of the doors to the house. The officers saw the defendant inside the house, screaming and throwing things. The officers knocked, but the defendant refused to answer. They could see that he had a cut on his hand, and they asked him whether he needed medical attention. The defendant demanded that the officers go to get a search warrant. One of the officers then pushed the front door partway open and entered the house. He saw the defendant pointing a rifle at him and he retreated. Eventually, the defendant was arrested and charged with threatening the officer.
Whether the officer’s observations of the defendant with the rifle were made in violation of the Fourth Amendment?
No. The officer was entitled to enter the home under the “emergency aid exception” to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement.
The Supreme Court affirmed the principle in Brigham City v. Stuart, in that an officer may enter a premises to render assistance to a person that is seriously injured or threatened with such injury. The Court stated “[T]his ‘emergency aid exception’ does not depend on the officers’ subjective intent or the seriousness of any crime they are investigating when the emergency arises. It requires only ‘an objectively reasonable basis for believing,’ that ‘a person within [the house] is in need of immediate aid,’ [quoting Brigham City and Mincey v. Arizona].”
558 U.S. 45, 130 S. Ct. 546 (2009)