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One carefully defined exception to the requirement of a search warrant is the so-called "emergency exception." Under this exception, police officers may enter a dwelling without a warrant to render emergency assistance to a person they reasonably believe to be in distress and in need of such assistance. The burden of showing that the entry fell within the narrow confines of the emergency exception is upon the state. The emergency exception has validity in Louisiana and thus a warrantless search may be made because of exigent circumstances.
The police found a motel room key on the victim's body. Their inquiry led them to a different motel room where defendant lived but was not present. They observed blood and shell casings and made a limited warrantless search of the room to determine whether anyone was present. Later defendant consented to a second search of his room. He was arrested and consented to the search of his vehicle, in which blood was found. He also made incriminating remarks during his interrogation. Defendant was indicted for second degree murder and was found guilty as charged. On appeal. defendant urged that evidence, seized from his room and vehicle, was admitted in error, as the initial search was unconstitutional and he was intoxicated when he consented to the subsequent searches.
Were the initial and subsequent searches of the defendant’s motel room unconstitutional, thereby warranting the reversal of defendant’s conviction?
The court affirmed the judgment of his conviction and sentence for second degree murder, as the initial warrantless search was valid as an emergency exception to the warrant requirement where the facts created the inference that an injured bleeding person was present in defendant's room. Further, defendant voluntarily consented to the subsequent searches. Although he had been drinking prior to giving his consent, he was given the Miranda warnings, he responded coherently to questions, and he signed the consent forms.