Warrantless search exigent circumstances exception; whether law enforcement may reenter residence after exigency has dissipated
Com. v. Wilmer, 2015 WL 9593615 (unreported), allocatur granted Aug. 9, 2017, appeal docket 40 MAP 2017
Whether law enforcement may reenter a residence after the exigency that permitted the initial entry has dissipated?
Police who observed intoxicated college students partying on roof of residence and one who appeared in danger of falling off forcibly entered residence after their knocking on door got no response. After securing roof, police reentered house to locate resident and write incident report. While interviewing resident, police saw drug paraphernalia in plain view, resident admitted it was hers, and police charged resident. Suppression court refused to suppress and after conviction Superior Court affirmed. Supreme Court granted allocatur to decide whether law enforcement may reenter a residence after the exigency that permitted the initial entry has dissipated.
The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit warrantless entries and searches when the police reasonably believe that a person within is in need of immediate aid. Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385, 392, 98 S.Ct. 2408, 57 L.Ed.2d 290 (1978); Commonwealth v. Miller, 555 Pa. 354, 724 A.2d 895, 900 (1999) (limited number of circumstances will excuse police from compliance with Fourth Amendment warrant and probable cause requirements; one such circumstance occurs when police reasonably believe that someone within residence is in need of immediate aid); Commonwealth v. Norris, 498 Pa. 308, 446 A.2d 246, 248 (1982) (warrantless entry into residence may be permitted, inter alia, “when the officers may in good faith believe that they or someone within are in peril of bodily harm.”); accord Commonwealth v. Galvin, 603 Pa. 625, 985 A.2d 783, 795–96 (2009).