Have you ever wondered, as a parent, as a child, or perhaps as a college roommate, what the police can do when you call 911 on behalf of another? In Stricker v. Twp. of Cambridge, Case No. 11-1998 (6th Cir. Jan. 14, 2013), the Sixth Circuit published a decision clarifying that the police do not need a warrant to enter and search your home when responding to a 911 call on behalf of an injured person where there is evidence that someone may be hurt. Moreover, the police can enter not only to ensure the safety of the injured individual, but can also search the entire house for the cause of the medical emergency.
In this case, the mother of Andrew Stricker called 911 because she believed that her son had taken some type of drug and he was non-responsive. The police showed up before an ambulance and tried to enter the Stricker’s home, but Mr. and Mrs. Stricker changed their mind and did not believe that their son needed attention. The police, seeing Andrew’s pale look and poor condition, knowing that Andrew had been arrested for heroin use before, and believing it was necessary to administer medical help to Andrew, used force to enter the Strickers’ home. In the process of doing so, the police searched the entire house, including anywhere potential drugs could have been located.
The Strickers filed a complaint alleging that the police violated the Strickers’ Fourth Amendment right by illegally entering their house and illegally searching their premises. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the case, concluding that the police had an objectively reasonable belief that an exigent circumstance existed—i.e., a medical emergency—for the police to enter. The Sixth Circuit also agreed that the police had the right to perform a protective sweep for individuals and a search of the bedroom and drawers for clues as to what Andrew ingested in order to aid in his treatment.