Exigent circumstances are exceptions to the requirement under the Fourth Amendment for law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant for searches and seizures. The United States Supreme Court defined situations that qualify as exigent circumstances. The circumstances allow law enforcement to act quickly to respond to emergencies.

However, exigent circumstances can be used as an excuse to violate your constitutional rights. Therefore, a person subject to a warrantless search should seek legal advice from a Lexington criminal defense lawyer immediately. 

What Does the Fourth Amendment Say About Searches and Seizures in Lexington, KY?

The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement officers. The protection gives you privacy rights in your home and on private property. 

A police officer cannot enter your home without a search warrant from a judge. However, judges should not sign search warrants unless there is probable cause to believe there is evidence of a criminal activity occurring within the residence.

If officers perform a warrantless search, any evidence they seize can be thrown out. Your criminal defense lawyer files a motion to suppress. If the judge finds the police officers violated your Fourth Amendment rights, the evidence is inadmissible in court. 

Exigent circumstances create exceptions to the requirement to have a warrant before searching a home or private property.

What Situations Qualify as Exigent Circumstances for Warrantless Searches?

Three commonly recognized exigent circumstances can override the need for a warrant under the Fourth Amendment. Those circumstances are:

Rendering Emergency Aid

Police officers may enter your home or private property if they have a reasonable suspicion that someone is being harmed or has been harmed, and the officers need to render aid. Rendering aid could also include entering the property to stop an assault in progress or prevent an assault.

For example, a police officer sees a person hitting another person with a bat through a window, or the officer hears a gunshot. The officer would have a reasonable belief that someone needs immediate assistance, so they could enter the private property without a warrant to aid a victim of assault

Preventing the Destruction of Evidence

This exigent circumstance allows law enforcement officers to enter without a warrant if they believe waiting for a warrant would result in the destruction of evidence. For example, police officers are waiting for a warrant when they hear a shredding machine. The officer enters because he reasonably believes that the suspect of a white-collar crime is shredding evidence.

Continuing Hot Pursuit of a Suspect

This exigent circumstance only applies when police officers chase a suspect and the suspect runs inside a residence or other private property. Hot pursuit is always a controversial reason for warrantless entry into private property. The Supreme Court ruled that minor misdemeanors may not always justify warrantless, thereby limiting this exigent circumstance.

What Does it Mean When the Court Refers to the Plain View Doctrine?

There are limits to how far police officers can go when searching property without a warrant. The Plain View Doctrine states that police officers may seize evidence that they can see in plain view. 

In other words, they cannot search through closets or drawers. They can only take evidence if they can see it lying somewhere without having to open anything. 

Unfortunately, police officers abuse exigent circumstances. They may move papers around, open drawers, or open closets to search for items without a warrant. If the person is in another room, it would be their word against the officers on whether the items were in plain sight or hidden from view.

What Should I Do If the Police Officers Conduct a Warrantless Search and Seizure?

Evidence seized without a warrant or exigent circumstances should not be used against you. However, unless you have a criminal defense lawyer to explain your rights to you and fight to hold law enforcement officers accountable for violating your rights, you could be convicted with evidence illegally seized. 

The prosecutor nor the police officers tell you when they violate your rights. They do not tell you when you have a defense to the criminal charges against you. For that, you need a skilled criminal attorney.

If the police arrest you, do not panic and do not resist arrest. Also, do not argue with the police officer or answer their questions. 

The best thing you can do for yourself is to remain silent until you can talk with a lawyer. Talking to the police or a prosecutor without an attorney can hurt your case. Instead, let your lawyer investigate the circumstances of the search and your arrest to develop a defense strategy to fight the charges against you.

Contact the Lexington Criminal Defense Attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC For Help Today

For more information, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC give us a call today at (859) 569-4014 or visit us at our Lexington law office.

Suhre & Associates, LLC – Lexington
333 West Vine Street #300-19
Lexington, KY 40507
United States