The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees you the right to be free from reasonable search and seizure. This generally means that law enforcement authorities must have a valid search warrant to enter and search your private residence. As a result, when police illegally search your home without a warrant, a court could rule in any criminal proceedings that since the search was illegal, the evidence was likewise illegally obtained and thus not admissible in court. However, there are various exceptions to this general requirement of a search warrant, one of which is “exigent circumstances.”
Tex. Code of Crim. Procedure Article 14.50 provides that while law enforcement officers normally may not enter a residence without a warrant, they may do so under exigent circumstances. Whether a situation rises to the level of exigent circumstances depends on the specific facts of each case.
One situation in which exigent circumstances might be present is if the law enforcement officer reasonably believes that entry without a warrant is necessary to assist others. For instance, when law enforcement officers are present outside a residence and hear a woman screaming for help, they may have exigent circumstances to enter the residence and prevent the woman from whatever harm may be occurring.
Another example of exigent circumstances may be when entry by police officers into the residence is necessary to protect themselves from a person whom they reasonably believe to be present, armed and dangerous. In other words, if someone from inside the residence is actively shooting through the windows at police officers, they may have grounds to enter the residence due to exigent circumstances.
Yet another instance that might constitute exigent circumstances occurs when law enforcement officers fear that failing to enter the residence could result in the destruction of evidence or contraband. If police officers are outside a home awaiting a search warrant and a fire begins burning in a back room in the house, the police might reasonably conclude that the suspect is attempting to dispose of evidence or contraband. In instance, exigent circumstances may be present.
The Peek & Toland criminal defense lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your situation. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your criminal proceedings.