Exigent Circumstances in Wisconsin – State v. Parisi

By Reddin & Singer

Apartment

If you or someone you know has been the subject of a search or seizure without a warrant, the police action may be considered unlawful. Each case is different and extremely fact-intensive, which is why it is important to consult an experienced Milwaukee criminal defense attorney who can assess the merits of your case. At Reddin & Singer, we have helped countless individuals challenge improper police conduct.

Any warrantless search or seizure is presumed unlawful unless a legal exception applies. There are a number of exceptions that could apply under the law, including consent, incident to arrest, hot pursuit, and exigent circumstances. Exigent circumstances refer to unusual and time-sensitive circumstances that justify conduct that may not otherwise be permissible or lawful in another situation. Put another way, exigent circumstances concern a situation in which there is an emergency or urgency, and obtaining a warrant is not possible or practical. For example, if an individual has drugs and the police suspects that individual will destroy the evidence, the police acting swiftly without a warrant may be justified under the exigent circumstances rule.

In State v. Jennifer M. Parisi, the court concluded that warrantless entry by the police was lawful because law enforcement had probable cause to believe the apartment had evidence of a crime and that exigent circumstances were present in the situation that justified the warrantless entry. Probable cause is the standard by which an officer can obtain a warrant or use one of the exceptions to the warrant requirement. It is the reasonable grounds to believe a crime may have been committed or evidence of a crime is present in the place to be searched.

Here, the police went to the defendant’s apartment building to check out a drug activity complaint they had received. The individual who complained stated she could smell burnt marijuana approximately one hour before the cops arrived and many times over the prior weeks and months. When the officers arrived at the scene, they also smelled burning marijuana. Additionally, drug dogs led the officers to the apartment door. The officers heard people inside the apartment, but the voices immediately stopped when the officers knocked on the door. Police believed that the individuals inside were destroying evidence, and thus they entered the premises without a warrant.

The court of appeals held that there were exigent circumstances justifying the warrantless entry. The fact the police did not actually hear sounds suggesting destruction of the actual drugs was irrelevant, as long as law enforcement could make a reasonable inference that the residents of the apartment were trying to avoid detection and destroy the evidence.

Under Wisconsin’s search and seizure laws, police must obtain a warrant to conduct a search and seizure on a property unless a legal exception applies. In some cases, police will cite an exception when in fact it was not truly implicated in that case. If you or someone you know has been the subject of a search or seizure without a warrant, you should seek the guidance of an experienced Milwaukee criminal defense attorney who can assess your situation and make sure police conduct was within the parameters of the law. To learn more about your rights and options, contact us online or give us a call at (414) 271-6400.