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If the police arrested you for a possession offense like possession of a gun or drugs, then you should explore whether the police violated your rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

You can potentially win your case without going to trial if you show that the police violated your rights.

The experienced criminal defense lawyers from The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, have the knowledge and skill you need to help protect you from police officers who violate your rights.

Contact us today to get started!

What Are Exigent Circumstances?

The right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures is deeply embedded in the Bill of Rights.

The Fourth Amendment guarantees the government will not invade our private affairs without a warrant.

So too does Article I, Section 13 of the California State Constitution. However, no right is absolute. 

Judicial rulings over the years have created exceptions to the Fourth Amendment that allow police to stop and search you without a warrant. One of those exceptions is called exigent circumstances. 

In a nutshell, the definition of exigent circumstances is an emergency where someone might be getting harmed, evidence is being destroyed, or police efforts might otherwise be in immediate peril of compromise. 

California and U.S. Supreme Court rulings allow police officers to enter a person’s home without a warrant if they believe they need to respond to such an emergency.

Then, once inside, the plain view doctrine allows officers to seize contraband they observe in plain sight. 

California and federal courts have approved searches of homes conducted by police officers in response to exigent circumstances if the police officers have an objectively reasonable basis. This basis could be: 

  • Rendering aid to an injured person—courts refer to this exception as the “emergency aid” exception;
  • Preventing damage to property;
  • Chasing a suspect in a crime—which courts refer to as “hot pursuit;”
  • Preventing a felon’s escape;
  • Protecting police officers from harm; and
  • Arresting someone based on probable cause when the officers have no time to get a warrant.

Judges look at the situation from the point of view of the police officer at the time of the search.

Exigent Circumstances Example

The exigent circumstances definition is sometimes tricky to understand. A real-world example might help illustrate the point. 

Suppose police officers receive a call to a home because a neighbor hears the 13-year-old female resident cry out for help.

Police arrive and hear a young girl begging for help. They hear the sounds of commotion and shouting. In response, the police kick in the door to save the 13-year-old girl from an attacker.

The police calm the situation down and perform a quick scan of the scene to be sure no one will launch an attack on them.

They find a quantity of drugs during their protective sweep on a coffee table and arrest the person they believe is in possession of those drugs.

In this situation, the police must show they had an objective reason to enter the home.

They could lawfully seize the drugs found in plain view as long as the court finds the exigent circumstances doctrine applies. 

But this doctrine has strict limits. The police cannot continue to search once the exigency is over. They might have probable cause to obtain a search warrant after observing the drugs in plain view.

However, they cannot tear the home to shreds to look for contraband once they save the young girl.

Do You Have Additional Questions About Exigent Circumstances?

San Diego defense lawyer Kerry L. Armstrong is a highly sought-after criminal defense lawyer. He and his award-winning team have extensive knowledge of search and seizure law.

They will determine the best strategy for your case. Call The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, at 619-514-0267 or contact us online for a free consultation. 

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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