Not only do the courts often uphold warrantless police entries as valid when a person is thought to be in need of aid, but the courts have routinely upheld the use of the emergency doctrine in response to a report of a missing person as well.(214) Courts have upheld searches for a missing person at his or her residence,(215) at the last place the missing person was seen,(216) and at places where evidence that would reveal the location of the missing person might be found.(217) While some courts have accepted the report of a missing person alone to be sufficient in establishing an emergency,(218) more often, courts also look to the circumstances surrounding the report to see if the belief that an emergency existed was reasonable.(219)
In applying the emergency doctrine to cases of missing persons, some court opinions have suggested an additional factor in determining if government use of the doctrine was proper.
Yet another category in which courts have found the emergency doctrine to be applicable is in response to a reported kidnapping.
State,(275) the Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma also upheld a warrantless entry by law enforcement officers under the emergency doctrine.(276) In this case, a man informed the FBI that he had received a ransom demand for the return of his wife.(277) The FBI made arrangements to trace any additional calls made to the man.(278) The next day,.
While many cases involving the safety of children may also be classified in one of the other categories that appear in this article,(288) some cases rest on circumstances unique to children, such as reports of child abuse or neglect.(289) Courts have consistently recognized the increased gravity of situations involving children, who are generally less able to take care of themselves than adults.(290) In fact, many states have statutory authority justifying the removal of children from dangerous situations.(291) While it is unclear if this type of legislation standing alone is enough to justify a warrantless entry, it tends to lend support to an officer's belief that he or she is justified in acting under the emergency doctrine if a child is in danger.
A report of an assault in progress may also permit the use of the emergency doctrine. In United States v.
The emergency doctrine may also apply when the police respond to a report of a person brandishing a gun, or a report of gunfire.
Isaac, two police officers were responding to a report of a man with a gun when they heard screams coming from inside an apartment.(387) The officers knocked on the door of the apartment.(388) The defendant opened the door and the officers saw a bruised woman standing inside.(389) The officers also saw the defendant toss a silver object to the floor.(390) One officer grabbed the defendant and the other officer stepped into the apartment.(391) The officer observed a weapon in plain view and seized it, ammunition, a fake police shield, and handcuffs.(392) In affirming defendant's conviction, the appellate court held the entry was permissible under the emergency doctrine and these items were properly seized.(393)
Love, officers responded to a report of a man with a gun in a hotel room.(394) When police knocked on the door, a woman answered and immediately tried to slam the door shut when she saw the officers.(395) The officers entered the room and discovered guns and narcotics in plain view.(396) Again, the appellate, court upheld the warrantless search under the emergency doctrine and affirmed the defendant's conviction for possession of a controlled substance.(397)
Another situation where courts have upheld warrantless entries under the emergency doctrine is when police respond to a report of a possible homicide or suicide.(409) The United States Supreme Court has expressly rejected a per se "murder scene" exception to the warrant requirement.(410) However, courts have found that in situations where the death of the victim is uncertain, police officers are reasonable in entering a dwelling to aid a dying or critically injured victim.(411)
In addition, officers making warrantless entries based on the presence of a dead body would still be subject to the other restrictions of the emergency doctrine, such as its limited scope.
Most courts have applied the emergency doctrine in circumstances where police reasonably believe that a burglary is in progress or has recently occurred.(477) In this context, courts have upheld warrantless entries into both residential(478) and commercial premises.(479)