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Warrantless Search Under The Emergency Aid Doctrine

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Warrantless Search under the Emergency Aid Doctrine

Can police search a suspect’s home without a warrant if they believe that the individual is critically injured inside the dwelling? The Appellate Division thought so given the facts of a recent stabbing case. Police arrived at the home of a suspect only to find evidence of blood and serious injury around the outside of house. Given the nature of the crime, and after two hours of attempting to locate the occupant, police decided to enter the dwelling without a warrant based on the “emergency aid doctrine.” Under that test, police can conduct a warrantless search if they if have an objectively reasonable basis to believe that immediate assistance is required and if there is a reasonable link between the emergency and the area to be searched.

The suspect in this case was not in the dwelling and the police left quickly, but not without finding weapons that led to the further prosecution of the case. At trial, the suspect attempted to prevent the state from using information obtained from the warrantless search. The trial court held, and the Appellate Division affirmed, that police properly conducted the search and did so thinking that they had to administer emergency aid to the suspect. Thus, the state was able to use the information obtained from the search against the suspect.

State of New Jersey v. Mark C. Sheppard, (Superior Court, Appellate Division, September 3, 2014). See also State v. Frankel, 179 N.J. 586 (2004); State v. Edmonds, 211 N.J. 117 (2012)