Officers raided the defendant’s apartment for controlled substances. During the raid, an officer was shot and killed. The officers, pursuant to an agency directive, which stated that officers should not investigate incidents in which they are involved, conducted no further investigation. A short time later, homicide detectives arrived on the scene and conducted a four-day warrantless search of the defendant’s apartment in which they seized numerous items of evidence.
Whether the evidence from the warrantless search of the defendant’s apartment was lawfully obtained under a “murder scene” exception?
No. The “murder scene” exception does not exist. The fact that a homicide occurs does not, by itself, give rise to exigent circumstances to justify a warrantless search.
When the government comes upon the scene of a homicide they may make a prompt warrantless search of the area to see if there are other victims or if a killer is still on the premises. The officers may also seize any evidence that is in plain view during the course of their legitimate emergency activities. But such a warrantless search must be strictly limited by the emergency that justifies its initiation.
In this case, all the persons in the defendant’s apartment had been located before the investigating homicide officers arrived and began their search. There was no indication that evidence would be lost, destroyed, or removed during the time required to obtain a search warrant. Therefore, the four-day search of the defendant’s apartment was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.
437 U.S. 385, 98 S. Ct. 2408 (1978)