March 23, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Warrantless Search Justified Under Exigent Circumstances Exception

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Pappan on Monday, September 10, 2018.

Searches and Seizures—Emergencies and Exigent Circumstances—Plain View Doctrine.

In this interlocutory appeal, the supreme court considered whether the trial court erred in suppressing two laser-sight rifles seized from defendant’s residence during a warrantless search conducted after defendant and two other occupants exited the residence. The court held that the warrantless search was justified under the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement. More specifically, the court concluded that (1) the officers had an objectively reasonable basis to believe there was an immediate need to protect their lives or safety by clearing the residence for other occupants, and (2) the manner and scope of the search was reasonable because it was protective in nature and narrowly tailored to neutralize the threat confronting the officers. The court further held that the seizure of the laser-sight rifles was justified by the plain view doctrine. Accordingly, the decision of the trial court was reversed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Tenth Circuit: Report of Domestic Argument By Itself Is Not Per Se Exigent Circumstances Justifying Warrantless Arrest Within Home

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in Storey v. Taylor on Monday, October 1, 2012.

Michael Storey brought civil rights claims against police officers after they arrested him at his home during an investigation of a report of a loud domestic argument. Although Officer Taylor disputed it, viewed in the light most favorable to Storey, it appeared Taylor arrested Storey after he refused to step outside his home. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants except for one claim that resulted in a hung jury. Storey appealed the granting of summary judgment on his wrongful arrest and retaliatory arrest claims against Taylor, who claimed qualified immunity.

Storey argued his arrest violated the Fourth Amendment because he was arrested without a warrant and no exigent circumstances existed. Unlike a warrantless search, a valid warrantless seizure requires both exigent circumstances and probable cause. The Tenth Circuit held Taylor had no probable cause to arrest Storey for failure to obey the order to exit his home because that order was not lawful in the absence of exigent circumstances. The court found that given the circumstances present here, no exigency existed. The officers heard no arguing when they arrived, they saw nothing to indicate violence, Storey said his wife had left, and the officers observed her return home while they were there. The court differentiated several cases where there was credible evidence leading officers to believe physical abuse had occurred or a potential for violence existed. The court also rejected Taylor’s argument that he was justified in arresting Storey because of the community-caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment. There was no evidence that Taylor’s actions were necessary to protect anyone. Summary judgment was reversed.

Regarding Storey’s retaliatory arrest claim, the Tenth Circuit remanded because the district court had found the arrest lawful. Because the arrest was unlawful, summary judgment was inappropriate if “a reasonable jury could conclude that Taylor’s retaliatory motive was a but-for cause of Storey’s arrest.”