The general rule in Florida is that a police officer is not permitted to enter a suspect’s home without probable cause and a valid search warrant signed by a judge or consent from someone with authorization. The Constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures provides the greatest protection in one’s home. However, there are exceptions to this rule. One exception is that the police may be able to search the residence if there are exigent, or emergency, circumstances.
For instance, in a case outside of Jacksonville, Florida, the police were called to a reported battery. When they arrived, the door to the defendant’s apartment was open, and the police officer saw the defendant sitting on a couch with some marijuana in front of him on the coffee table. The police officer entered the apartment, seized the marijuana and arrested the defendant for possession of marijuana.
The criminal defense attorney filed a motion to suppress arguing that the police officer did not have a right to enter the residence and seize the marijuana because he did not have consent to enter the apartment and did not have a search warrant. Normally, the marijuana evidence would be thrown out, but the court found that there were sufficient exigent circumstances for the police officer to enter the apartment and seize the marijuana. The relevant factors were that the police officer was properly outside of the apartment when he observed the marijuana, the marijuana was clearly recognizable as illegal and the defendant could easily destroy the marijuana if the police officer had to take the time to get a search warrant.