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Name: United States v. Russell
Case #: 04-10681
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 01/30/2006

The emergency doctrine supported a warrantless search of a home on the suspicion that the victim or suspect was still inside. The defendant placed two 911 calls regarding a shooting. In the first call he identified himself with a false name and explained that a gun had gone off and wounded him in the foot, and that he needed an ambulance. The transcript of that call revealed that the dispatcher was confused as to whether the defendant had been shot, or had shot himself. The defendant called back and gave his real name and address and said that he had shot himself in the foot, and stated that his girlfriend was going to kill him. He also told the dispatcher that he had crawled to the door to unlock it for police. The dispatcher heard female voices in the background, but the defendant did not respond when asked if other people were in the house. Sacramento Sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene and saw an injured man in the driveway hopping to the car with two women. The deputies entered the house with their guns drawn, looking for another victim or possibly an armed shooter. They found the gun in plain view, and the defendant was ultimately charged in federal court with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The district court denied his motion to suppress, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. The court held that the emergency doctrine permitted a warrantless search of the house where police had reasonable grounds to believe that there was an emergency at hand and an immediate need for their assistance for the protection of life or property. Moreover, the search was not primarily motivated by an intent to make an arrest or seize evidence. The court did not reach the issue of consent. One judge dissented, finding that the search was not justified under the emergency doctrine.