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New York Court Discusses the Emergency Exception to the Warrant Requirement

Recently, a state court issued a written opinion in a case involving allegations that the defendant violated a New York order of protection. The case required the court to determine if the defendant was correct in asserting that the police entered her home without a warrant and without sufficient cause to do so. Ultimately, the court concluded that the police acted improperly, and thus any evidence obtained as a result should have been suppressed.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant had been previously placed on probation based on an unrelated matter. As a condition of that probation, the court issued an order of protection, requiring the defendant to stay away from a certain individual.

One day, police received a call from the downstairs neighbor of the defendant, stating that she heard noises in the apartment. This concerned her because she believed the defendant to have been incarcerated. Police verified that the defendant had previously been released from jail, but went to the apartment anyhow.

When police arrived, they looked through the windows and saw the light from a television. The officers testified they also could hear a chirp that sounded like a smoke alarm. The officers knocked and no one responded. Then the officers entered the apartment with their guns drawn, ordering everyone to come into the central room.

The defendant responded that she was naked and changing. The officer commanded she come out immediately, which she did. The defendant was ordered to put clothes on and then handcuffed. Despite the defendant telling police no one was in the apartment, police searched the apartment with guns drawn and found a man hiding under a pile of clothes.

The man was the person named in the protective order. The defendant was charged with violating the protective order, which was also a condition of her probation. The defendant’s probation was revoked and she was sentenced to a period of incarceration. The defendant appealed, arguing that the police entry into her home was illegal.

The prosecution argued that the police were justified in entering the apartment based on the emergency exception to the warrant requirement. The court, however, rejected the prosecution’s argument.

The court explained that the emergency exception is only applicable when, 1) police have reasonable grounds to believe that there is an ongoing emergency that requires their assistance, 2) the search is not based on the intent to investigate or arrest, and 3) there must be probable cause to associate the emergency with the area to be entered or searched.

Here, the court determined that the police conduct did not meet the emergency exception. The court held that there was no ongoing emergency and, without saying it explicitly, seemed to imply that the real motivating factor behind the officers’ actions was a suspicion that the defendant had been associating with the man who was ultimately found in her apartment. Thus, the defendant’s motion was granted and her conviction and violation of probation reversed.

Have You Been Subject to a New York Search Warrant?

If you have recently been arrested after police executed a search warrant of your home, you should contact the dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys at Tilem & Associates. Police must follow very strict rules and procedures when obtaining and executing New York search warrants. An officer’s failure to follow protocol may render any evidence seized as a result of their entrance or search inadmissible at trial. At Tilem & Associates, we represent those charged with serious crimes and help enforce their rights and defend their freedom. We are keenly familiar with both state and federal search and seizure law, and put our advanced knowledge to work in favor of our clients.  To learn more, call 877-377-8666 to schedule a free consultation today.

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