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Name: People v. Gemmill
Case #: C055464
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 05/06/2008

Whether a warrantless search of a residence is justified under the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment is evaluated by the degree of intrusion relative to the exigency. At approximately 10:30 a.m., a police officer received a call from a motorist who said that he had almost hit a child standing in the road. Responding to the location, the officers located the child. A neighbor told the officers that the two and one-half year-old child lived near where he was found. The child’s pointing focused the officer’s attention on a house but the child was unable to give any other information. The officer went to the house and knocked and called but received no response. After the child was turned over to the Child Protective Services, the officer had a “gut feeling” that something wasn’t right, returned to the house and peered into a side window. Inside he saw a child playing with a plastic bag and an unresponsive adult male. He entered the residence, and in the process of caring for the occupants, observed marijuana and that the house was in a dirty condition. The appellate court agreed that the officer’s peering into the window constituted a search as it was from a location not normally accessible to the public and appellant consequently had a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, under the circumstances, the officer’s reasonable suspicion that someone inside the home might be injured or in imminent threat justified the limited intrusion of looking through the window.