Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Supreme Court Reverses Decision That Quashed Warrantless Search

In Michigan v. Fisher, the United States Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Michigan Court of Appeals that had quashed a warrantless search.  Justice Stevens and Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion.  The majority opinion stated:
It was error for the Michigan Court of Appeals to replace that objective inquiry into appearances with itshindsight determination that there was in fact no emer-gency. It does not meet the needs of law enforcement or the demands of public safety to require officers to walkaway 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. But “[t]he role of a peace officer includes preventing violence and restoring order, not simply ren-dering first aid to casualties.” Brigham City, supra, at 406. It sufficed to invoke the emergency aid exceptionthat it was reasonable to believe that Fisher had hurt himself (albeit nonfatally) and needed treatment that in his rage he was unable to provide, or that Fisher was about to hurt, or had already hurt, someone else. The Michigan Court of Appeals required more than what the Fourth Amendment demands.
The dissent stated:
Today, without having heard Officer Goolsby’s testimony, this Court decides that the trial judge got it wrong. I am not persuaded that he did, but even if we make that assumption, it is hard to see how the Court is justified in micromanaging the day-to-day business of state tribunals making fact-intensive decisions of this kind. We ought not usurp the role of the fact finder when faced with a close question of the reasonableness of an officer’s actions, particularly in a case tried in a state court. I therefore respectfully dissent.


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