Lee Davis: Sixth Circuit Says 911 Call Justifies Police Entry Into House

Thursday, January 31, 2013 - by Lee Davis
Lee Davis
Lee Davis

In Stricker v. Township of Cambridge the Sixth Circuit issued a ruling concerning police and their ability to enter a private residence. The case began when members of the Stricker family placed an emergency call to 911 to ask for help for their son who appeared to be overdosing. The 911 operator asked what substance the son had consumed but the mother, Susan Stricker, said she did not know.

Paramedics arrived soon after the call was placed but followed their stated policy of not entering a house until the police had arrived to secure the scene. A police office who heard the house involved in the call radioed the police dispatcher to let the department know he had previously been to the same address and made several arrests for occupants of the home who were heroin addicts.



When the police finally arrived, the Stricker family told them to leave their property. EMS and the police at the scene pressed the family to allow them inside to treat the ill son, the family insisted that the police had to go but the EMS were allowed to stay.

The brief appearance of the ill son in the front window, unsteady and obviously in distress, as well as a consultation with an assistant district attorney, was all the officers on the scene needed to force their way inside the house. The parents were handcuffed and the son was treated by EMS. The son was later found to have taken Xanax and heroin and required hospitalization.

While the police were securing the home they did a standard security sweep and uncovered some illegal substances. The parents were ultimately charged with resisting an officer and the son was arrested for substance abuse. The family then filed a suit against the police department, claiming that the officers who pushed their way into the house broke the law by engaging in an unreasonable search and seizure. They further claimed the officers used excessive force and that the district attorney’s office was working in conjunction with the police in a conspiracy to violate the Fourth Amendment.

The Sixth Circuit appeared not to hold much concern for the arguments of the Stricker family. The panel found that 911 calls represent a textbook example of an exigent circumstance. Such emergency situations are prime examples of when it can be necessary for police officers to enter a home without a warrant. The Sixth Circuit said even hang-up calls to 911 could be justification for such police entries. The 911 call, the previous police interaction with residents of the house and the brief encounter with the ill son in the window all served as sufficient justification for police action given that it was reasonable to assume the man needed immediately medical attention.

The Court went on to call the search of the house justifiable, though a close issue. The panel wrote that because the mother was unable to explain what substance her son had ingested the police were justified in searching for more information to help treat the son.


To read the full opinion, click here.

(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at lee@davis-hoss.com or at 266-0605.)


CBL Closes Long-Term Fixed-Rate Loan Secured By Ambassador Town Center

CBL & Associates Properties, Inc. on Thursday announced that it closed on a non-recourse $47.7 million loan secured by Ambassador Town Center in Lafayette, La. The seven-year loan bears a fixed interest rate of 3.22 percent and was provided by a new institutional lender. Proceeds from the loan were primarily used to retire the existing construction loans with an aggregate balance ... (click for more)

First Tennessee Bank Presents $50,000 Check To Ancla Insurance And Services

First Tennessee Bank’s Chattanooga Community Development Manager Tracee Smith and Cleveland Community President Mike Griffin presented Ancla Insurance and Services President Beth Underwood with a check in the amount of $50,000 at First Tennessee’s downtown office. The funds donated by First Tennessee will be used to enhance Ancla’s onsite computer lab and build on its lifestyle ... (click for more)

Preserving 90-Year-Old Grammar School Just One Of Challenges Facing Town, Signal Council Told

Rather than spend millions upgrading Signal Mountain ’s historic grammar school so it can continue to house the Mountain Arts Community Center (MACC), it would make more sense to incorporate that project into a larger multi-pronged one that would solve several issues facing the community, according to town manager Boyd Veal.   For example, Mr. Veal said, the current ... (click for more)

Firefighters Put Out Fire In Compost Pile At City's Wood Recycling Center

Chattanooga firefighters were called to a fire at the city's wood recycling center on N. Hawthorne Street around noon on Sunday. Battalion Chief Don Bowman said the smoke and flames could be seen from several miles away.   Firefighters with five fire companies worked to get the blaze under control, using master streams from two aerials and some hand-held hoselines. The ... (click for more)

Improvements Needed At Entrance To Wilcox Tunnel

I am writing this letter to bring to your attention to a city traffic issue that needs to be addressed immediately, the sooner the better. I can see no large cost factor.   Recently, while as a concerned citizen, removing trash and litter from the entry/exit area of the Wilcox Tunnel on the side that runs into Chamberlain Avenue, I fully realized that this area could ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Looking For A Wife

Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, is a really cool place. I tried to buy a huge mounted buffalo head in an antique store there one time until I found out the shipping charges were four times what the head was worth. But suddenly my rapt attention is riveted on Coeur d'Alene again because a dazzling social experiment is taking place this very moment at a plush resort in north Idaho. Several ... (click for more)