A Service from the ABA Criminal Justice Section, http://www.abanet.org/crimjust
Michigan v. Jeremy Fisher
United States Supreme Court No. 09-91
Decided: December 7, 2009
The United States Supreme Court issued a per curium decision on December 7 regarding a Fourth Amendment case. The case arising out of Michigan involved two police officers accused of violating the Fourth Amendment by making a warrantless entry into a home. The officers who were responding to a complaint about a “crazy man” in a house arrived on the scene and observed a damaged pick up truck in the driveway, a damaged fence, three broken house windows, blood stains on the front of the truck and bloodied clothing out side the house. As the officers approached the house they could see the defendant screaming and throwing things inside the house.
The defendant had locked the back door and placed a couch in front of the front door to prevent entry into his house. At the door the officers also noticed that the defendant’s hand was bleeding and asked him if he needed medical attention and asked him to let them in. The defendant responded that he was fine and demanded that they get a search warrant if they wanted to enter his house.
The officers then pushed the front door in and observed the defendant holding a gun. The defendant was arrested for assault with a dangerous weapon.
The Michigan Court of Appeals believed that the officer’s actions were not justifiable enough to have entered the home of Fisher. They concluded that the drops of blood did not validate a serious, life-threatening injury and being that Fisher was upright and conscious; he could have tended to his own needs. A motion to suppress the evidence was granted.
The Supreme Court ruled that it was error for the Michigan Court of Appeals to replace that objective inquiry into appearances with its hindsight determination that there was in fact no emergency. [Quoting the per curium author]
It does not meet the needs of law enforcement or the demands of public safety to require officers to walk away from a situation like the one they encountered here. Only when an apparent threat has become an actual harm can officers rule out innocuous explanations for ominous circumstances.
The opinion went on to say that it was reasonable for the officers to conclude that an emergency aid exception to the Forth Amendment was called for and thus reversed and remanded the Michigan Court of Appeals.
This case is available to view at: www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/09pdf/09-91.pdf