Supreme Court upholds emergency aid exception to Fourth Amendment

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] issued a per curiam opinion [text, PDF] Monday in Ryburn v. Huff [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] allowing police officers to enter a private residence without a warrant if they have a reason to anticipate violence. The parents of a high school student brought the suit, arguing that the police department violated the Fourth Amendment [text] when officers entered their home without a warrant. The officers arrived at the home after the student's principal asked them to investigate the student's alleged shooting threat. The student's mother resisted answering the officers' questions, including whether there was a weapon in the home. When the mother turned away from the police and re-entered the home, the officers followed her inside and left after determining that there was no threat. The court relied on its 2006 ruling in Brigham City v. Stuart [opinion, PDF] to conclude that the officers correctly applied the emergency aid exception to the Fourth Amendment:

In sum, reasonable police officers in petitioners' position could have come to the conclusion that the Fourth Amendment permitted them to enter the Huff residence if there was an objectively reasonable basis for fearing that violence was imminent. And a reasonable officer could have come to such a conclusion based on the facts...
The decision reversed the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which ruled that the student's mother exercised her right to end the conversation with the police and that the officers could not have reasonably believed that there was an imminent threat [opinion, PDF] inside the home.

The court also upheld the emergency aid exception to the Fourth Amendment in its 2009 ruling in Michigan v. Fisher [opinion, PDF], which reversed and remanded [JURIST report] a Michigan Court of Appeals decision that found officers violated a defendant's Fourth Amendment rights when they entered his home. The case arose when officers called to the home of Jeremy Fisher found a dented vehicle outside the home and blood on the vehicle and on clothing inside the vehicle. They observed Fisher through a window throwing objects and one of the officers entered the home, at which time Fisher pointed a rifle at the officer. Fisher was charged with assault and possession of a firearm during a felony and sought to suppress the officer's statement, arguing that the entry was illegal.

 

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