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NJ Court Rules on Limits of “Emergency Aid” Exception

06
Nov
2010

by in Criminal Appeals

State v. Alice O’Donnell, ? N.J. ?, 2010 N.J. LEXIS 656 (July 20, 2010) – Judgment of Appellate Division affirming denial of suppression (408 N.J. Super. 177 (App. Div. 2009)) affirmed o.b.

“Stripped to its bare bones, the question presented is whether the police are allowed to remain at a murder site after a proper entry under the emergency aid exception to the warrant requirement, thereby authorizing the lawful seizure of evidence in plain view. Subject to the limitations expressed both by the Appellate Division and below, the answer to that question is ‘yes.’…

The reasonableness of continuous police presence at the location initially accessed under the emergency aid exception is defined by the facts presented…. In this case, where the police gained access and seized evidence without a warrant, the propriety of the access indisputably was established by the emergency aid exception to the warrant requirement; the continued police presence at the site of the dead body of a six-year-old child was authorized until the scene could be turned over to the medical examiner without a break in custody; and the seizure of evidence of a crime was authorized by the plain view doctrine.

In respect of the discrete issue presented in this appeal — whether it was proper for the police to remain on the premises and seize evidence after discovery of the dead body abated the initial emergency — the conclusion is, to us, clear: because the corpse remained at what was obviously the death scene and the police had the obligation to retain control of the premises until that control could be transferred to the medical examiner, the police had a continuing right to remain present at the scene.”

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