emergency search | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Procedural Law

In the procedural law context, an emergency search is a search that is conducted without a warrant and is typically done when there is not enough time to obtain a warrant due to the exigency of the situation.

An emergency search is an exception to the general rule that requires law enforcement officers to have a warrant in order to conduct a search.

The emergency search doctrine is based on the idea that in certain circumstances, law enforcement officers should be able to act quickly to protect life and property without first obtaining a warrant. However, because an emergency search is conducted without a warrant, it is subject to stricter scrutiny by courts. The evidence obtained may be suppressed if the search is unreasonable.

Examples of situations where an emergency search could be conducted include:

      • When a person is in danger, and there is no time to obtain a warrant
      • When a perpetrator is likely to flee or destroy evidence
      • When there is a risk of danger to the public if the police delay action

It’s important to note that the circumstances that constitute an emergency will vary depending on the jurisdiction, and courts may consider a number of factors when determining whether a search was conducted under an emergency situation.

When a search is conducted under emergency circumstances, officers must articulate the facts and circumstances that justify the emergency exception and explain why they believed that a warrantless search was necessary. The courts then evaluate the officers’ actions based on the information they had available at the time, and they will determine if the warrantless search was reasonable.

Emergency search is conducted without a warrant and is based on exigent circumstances that require immediate action to protect life and property; it is an exception to the Fourth Amendment but is subject to strict scrutiny by the courts to ensure that the search was reasonable.

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Last Modified: 01/09/2023


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