In a recent trafficking in cocaine case that occurred south of Jacksonville, Florida, the criminal case was dismissed after the court found that the drugs were illegally seized when the police entered the defendant’s home without consent, a search warrant or exigent circumstances. In order for the police to lawfully enter one’s residence, they must either have consent to enter, a valid search warrant or emergency circumstances.
In this case, the suspect called the police after a robbery occurred at his apartment. The police arrived approximately 30 minutes after the robbers left the apartment. When the police arrived, the robbery was clearly over and there was no indication that any of the robbers were in the area. However, the police entered the defendant’s apartment without permission and found cocaine and other drugs inside. At that point, the person who called the police was arrested for trafficking cocaine and possession of illegal pills.
The criminal defense lawyer for the defendant filed a motion to suppress the drugs found in the apartment and asserted that the police did not have a right to be in his apartment in the first place since the defendant did not give them permission to enter, the police did not have a search warrant and there were no exigent circumstances allowing the entry and search. The state argued that the recent robbery provided the exigent circumstances to justify the entry and search. The state argued that because a robbery had just occurred and the suspects could be inside the apartment, the police had a right to look for them. This might be true and a legitimate basis for a search without a warrant if the robbery was recent and there were some specific facts leading the police to believe the robbers were still in the apartment. However, the police could not point to any specific facts indicating there was anything in the apartment related to the robbery that needed to be searched on an emergency basis. As a result, there was no legitimate basis for the police to enter the apartment, and the search for the drugs was found to be illegal. The drugs were thrown out of court along with the drug charges.