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Police and warrantless entries into homes

In Florida, police must generally secure a warrant before entering homes unless the entry meets an exception to the search warrant requirement. A recent decision from the Supreme Court of the United States offers more protection to people against warrantless searches of their homes and could potentially impact people who are facing criminal charges after warrantless searches were conducted.

No public safety or health exception

The Supreme Court has previously upheld warrantless searches of vehicles for purposes of public safety or health. However, the justices found that warrantless searches of homes for health or public safety reasons are not allowed since people deserve a greater degree of privacy in their homes than in their cars.

One case that went to the Supreme Court involved a 70-year-old man who got into an argument with his wife. He then reportedly retrieved a gun, tried to hand it to her and told her to shoot him. His wife left to spend the night in a hotel and called the police because she was worried that her husband might be suicidal. The police then entered his home without a warrant, seized his guns and transported him to a mental hospital for an evaluation. The court ruled that the entry of his home violated his rights against unreasonable searches and seizure.

Implications for criminal cases

People who are charged with crimes after warrantless entries and searches of their homes might benefit from the decision in this case. If the police entered a home by claiming their entry was based on protecting the community, a criminal defense strategy might involve challenging the warrantless entry, search and seizure of evidence. If this argument succeeds, the search and all of the evidence that was seized as a result might be deemed inadmissible in court against the defendant.

Evidentiary motions based on violations of a defendant’s constitutional rights have the potential of resulting in a dismissal of a criminal case. Evidence found as a result of an unconstitutional search is deemed to be the fruit of the poisonous tree and cannot be introduced at trial by the prosecution. Depending on the other evidence the police gathered before the unlawful search, the prosecutor might have no choice but to dismiss the charges against the defendant.

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