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Thursday, July 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Justices OK Warrantless Entry in Aid Situation

(CN) - Michigan police acted reasonably in entering without a warrant the home of a man who appeared to be injured and "going crazy," the U.S. Supreme Court ruled.

The justices overturned the Michigan Court of Appeals' ruling for Jeremy Fisher in his Fourth Amendment lawsuit against Brownstone police.

Officers allegedly found Fisher's house "in considerable chaos," according to the ruling. They found a truck with the front smashed in and blood on the hood, damaged fence posts and three broken windows. Peering through a window, they saw Fisher screaming and throwing things. He purportedly had a cut on his hand that was bleeding.

The officers knocked, but Fisher refused to answer. When they asked if he needed medical attention, Fisher yelled at them to go get a search warrant.

One officer pushed the front door partway open and stepped inside, but said he withdrew when he saw Fisher pointing a gun at him.

Fisher said the entry violated the Constitution's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the trial court's ruling for Fisher, and the state high court declined to hear the case, despite a three-justice dissent.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed, saying the appeals court's decision "is indeed contrary to our Fourth Amendment case law, particularly Brigham City v. Stuart."

In Brigham City, the justices upheld a warrantless entry where officers saw "the need to assist persons who are seriously injured or threatened with such injury" - a principle known as the "emergency aid exception."

"A straightforward application of the emergency aid exception, as in Brigham City, dictates that the officer's entry was reasonable," the high court concluded.

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