In Florida, the police are not generally allowed to enter a person’s residence without a valid search warrant or consent to enter and search by the owner or someone with authorization to give the consent to the police. Perhaps the strongest privacy rights and right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure by police is in one’s home. However, there are some limited circumstances when a police officer can enter your home without consent or a search warrant.
For instance, there is a concept in criminal and search and seizure law that deals with exigent circumstances, or emergency situations. The police might be able to enter your home without a search warrant or consent if there is specific evidence of a medical emergency inside. An example might be if the police received a call of a hostage situation in a house and heard gunshots and screaming, the police would likely be able to go into the house to see if someone’s life or health was in danger. The police would not be able to use the emergency as an excuse to search the place, but if they did see some illegal drugs or evidence of other illegal activity while they were lawfully in the home, they would be able to pursue that.
To use this exigent circumstances exception in Florida, there must be clear and specific evidence of some medical or similar problem that needs immediate attention. In a possession of Methamphetamine case near Jacksonville, Florida, the police drove by a house they suspected was being used to make Methamphetamine. They saw that the front door was open, some lights were on and mail was on the floor near the door. The police officer used that as an excuse to go inside to check on the welfare of the residents. Once inside, he saw Methamphetamine and materials used to make Methamphetamine. The resident who was home at the time was not in any medical distress, but he was arrested for Manufacture of Methamphetamine.
The criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress the Methamphetamine and Methamphetamine making materials because they were found as a result of an illegal search. The court agreed and threw out the Methamphetamine evidence. The police officer could not articulate any specific reasons why he thought a medical emergency was taking place in the home and needed immediate attention. An open front door with mail on the floor is far from a sufficient basis to circumvent the usual requirement that a police officer must get a valid search warrant before entering someone’s home without consent.