Emergency aid doctrine – State v. Frankel

This morning, the New Jersey Supreme Court released its opinion in State v. Frankel. This case involved a search of a house undertaken as a result of a 9-1-1 call received by the police. The home owner denied placing the call to the police and declined to allow them entry to his home without a search warrant. He blamed the call on a faulty home computer. The police went into his home anyway in an effort to make sure no one was in danger. Once inside, the police found marijuana plants growing in sufficient quantity to charge a crime of the first degree.

In its opinion, written by Justice Albin, the Justices affirmed Appellate Division and ruled that under the emergency aid doctrine, police may enter a residence without a warrant for the purpose of protecting or preserving life.This exception to the warrant requirement requires that the police possess an objectively reasonable basis to believe that an emergency requires immediate action to preserve life or prevent a serious bodily injury. The primary motive of the police must be to prevent an emergency and render aid, not to search for evidence. Moreover, there must be a logical nexus between the area searched and the purported emergency.

This case was decided under both the United States Constitution and Article I, Paragraph 7 of the New Jersey Constitution of 1947.

Download a copy of State v. Frankel

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