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“Exigent circumstances” for warrantless searches and seizures

On Behalf of | Aug 18, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Police officers often face a “now or never” situation, when they must balance enforcing the law immediately while upholding an alleged offender’s civil rights. Being in this state of emergency often requires official action then and there, which does not leave time to secure a warrant.

While the lawful execution of a search and seizure in a home or car is for police authorities to obtain a warrant, “exigent circumstances” present an exception to this rule.

Exigencies, combined with probable cause or a reasonable basis that a person committed a crime, are extraordinary instances that justify a warrantless search and seizure.

Elements of an exigency

The nature of exigent circumstances may vary depending on the severity of the crime. The following are primary factors to consider:

  • Pursuing a fleeing offender
  • Protecting an individual, the public or a property from imminent danger
  • Preserving significant evidence from impending destruction

As cited in a scholarly review, a sample exigency is when a police officer searched a car and permitted a physician to conduct a blood alcohol content (BAC) test on a suspected drunk driver. The court ruled that the officer acted reasonably to maintain the test’s efficacy since alcohol naturally dissipates. A warrantless BAC test was permissible for this case as any delay, like transporting the defendant to the hospital, could have seriously compromised the test results.

However, suppose Missouri courts find that police officials fail to observe practicable considerations. In that case, their misconduct may be to the offender’s defense.  Further, courts reiterate that every case has its own unique set of facts. Thus, questionable probable cause could also make any search and seizure unconstitutional.

Learning the law is an act of self-defense

There are nuances to the law that recognize exceptional circumstances during searches and seizures. Therefore, it is crucial for anyone charged with a crime to have counsel with a clear grasp of legal domains to help them build a solid defense strategy. By doing so, they protect their rights and future.