Community Caretaking Is No Exception To Warrant Requirement
- August 5, 2013
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Although there is a governmental right to enter a residence, under certain circumstances, for community caretaking functions such entry is not permitted without a search warrant barring exigent circumstances. The community caretaking function permits agents of the state, including police, to enter and search a residence under the pretext of concern for the residents’ health and safety. In State v. Vargas, a landlord contacted police and expressed concern that he had not seen the tenant, Vargas, for several weeks nor had he received rent due from Vargas. The landlord knew nothing about Vargas’ schedule, habits, family or whether he may have been on vacation. There was no reason for the landlord to believe there was an emergency and no reason the police could not have waited to obtain a warrant before entering Vargas’ apartment. However, when police responded to the landlord’s call, the landlord opened the door with his keys and the police entered. In plain view, the police found a jar of marijuana when they entered the apartment. Upon the finding of marijuana, the landlord began searching the apartment and found more marijuana. The police then obtained a search warrant and recovered $47,001, guns, ammunition, white powder, scales and additional marijuana. The NJ Supreme Court held there was no reason the police could not wait to apply for a warrant before undertaking the search in the absence of exigent circumstances. The NJ Supreme Court’s holding in Vargas specifically included that the community-caretaking doctrine, standing alone and in the absence of some form of exigent circumstances, does not allow the police to conduct warrantless searches of homes. The State cannot use evidence against you if the evidence was obtained illegally. If you are facing charges based on an illegal search and seizure of your residence, vehicle or person you should contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately to protect your rights. For more information on warrant requirements, drug charges, weapons charges, assault or other criminal charges in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and is not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.