Monday, February 16, 2009

No need for welfare check

Matt Edge won in State v. Baker, No. 99,084 (Kan. App. Feb. 6, 2009)(unpublished), reversing a Sedgwick County drug conviction. The COA succinctly summarized its case in the first paragraph:
[P]olice entered [Mr. Baker's] without permission and without a warrant. Police officers justified the warrantless entry based on concern for three young children that police thought might have been left alone in the room. But police may avoid the normal need for a warrant in emergency circumstances only when immediate action by the police is necessary for the protection of life or property. That wasn't the case because the children's aunt was on the motel premises and could have been asked to check on their welfare instead of the police doing so. We must therefore reverse Baker's convictions and order that the evidence found in a search of the room be suppressed.
There are lots of permutations of this sort of rationale on the part of police officers (not just emergency doctrine cases) and it's nice to see a decision that recognizes that the default shouldn't be to conduct a warrantless search--that should be the last resort.

[Update: the state did not file a PR and the mandate issued on March 12, 2009]

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