The Texas Emergency Doctrine for Seizure of Evidence: 4 Factors

Law enforcement officers will some times seize criminal evidence with out a warrant when they are in the course of their community care-taking function. Under Texas Search and seizure law this is call the “Emergency Doctrine“. An example would be if an officer was called to a house because of a life threating emergency and went inside and observed in open view illegal drug evidence, those drugs could be seized without a search warrant under the emergency doctrine.

In order to invoke the “emergency doctrine” the state’s evidence was demonstrate 4  factors to the trial court.

1. Must show a real emergency. The evidence must show the police had immediate and objectively reasonable grounds  to believe there was a need to act immediately in order to protect or save life. or avoid serious injury.

2.Can’t be a ruse to look for evidence. Law enforcement wasn’t motivated primarily by a desire to arrest a suspect or seize evidence.

3. Must prove emergency to search. The evidence must show there is a reasonable basis to connect the emergency to the place entered by law enforcement.

4. Prosecution has burden of proof. The Burden is on the prosecution to establish the existence of the emergency and the grounds for associating the emergency with the area entered and searched.

A criminal attorney must always investigate and determine if the police followed proper procedures when seizing evidence. If criminal evidence can be suppressed many times a criminal case must be dismissed.

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