Warrantless Entry

Police officers and social workers are not immune for coercing or forcing entry into a person’s home without a search warrant. Calabretta v. Floyd (9th Cir. 1999)

The mere possibility of danger does not constitute an emergency or exigent circumstance that would justify a forced warrantless entry and a warrantless seizure of a child. Hurlman v. Rice (2nd Cir. 1991)

Police officer and social worker may not conduct a warrantless search or seizure in a suspected child abuse case absent exigent circumstances. Defendants must have reason to believe that life or limb is in immediate jeopardy and that the intrusion is reasonable necessary to alleviate the threat. Searches and seizures in investigation of a child neglect or child abuse case at a home are governed by the same principles as other searches and seizures at a home. Goodv. Dauphin County Social Services (3rd Cir. 1989)

The Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures extends beyond criminal investigations and includes conduct by social workers in the context of a child neglect/abuse investigation. Lenz v. Winburn (11th Cir. 1995) The protection offered by the Fourth Amendment and by our laws does not exhaust itself once a warrant is obtained. The concern for the privacy, the safety, and the property of our citizens continues and is reflected in knock and announce requirements. United States v. Becker, 929 F.2d 9th Cir.1991)

Making false statements made to obtain a warrant, when the false statements were necessary to the finding of probable cause on which the warrant was based, violates the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement. The warrant clause contemplates the warrant applicant be truthful: “no warrant shall issue, but on probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation.” Deliberate falsehood or reckless disregard for the truth violates the warrant clause. An officer who obtains a warrant through material false statements which result in an unconstitutional seizure may be held liable personally for his actions under § 1983. When a warrant application is materially false or made in reckless disregard for the Fourth Amendment’s warrant clause. A search must not exceed the scope of the search authorized in a warrant. By limiting the authorization to search to the specific areas and things for which there is probable cause to search, the Fourth Amendment particularity requirement ensures that the search will be carefully tailored to its justifications, and will not take on the character of the wide-ranging exploratory searches the framers of the Constitution intended to prohibit. There is a requirement that the police identify themselves to the subject of a search, absent exigent circumstances. Aponte Matos v. Toledo Davilla (1st Cir. 1998)

This is reprinted with permission. The author is Thomas Dutkiewicz