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.)



Couple Launches Hat Company; Gives Part Of Proceeds To Public Schools

Olivia Connor was a resident in the local Project Inspire teacher residency program when she realized the need for more funding for Chattanooga's public schools so that students have every possible opportunity to learn inside and outside the classroom. She and her husband Ty came up with a creative, innovative way to add more funding to the Hamilton County Department of ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Police Department Sponsors Crime Prevention Training For Business Owners And Managers

The Chattanooga Police Department is sponsoring free crime prevention training primarily designed for business owners and managers who are interested in making their facility and employees as safe as possible. A nationally-accredited Crime Prevention specialist from the University of Tennessee’s Law Enforcement Innovation Center will cover the following topics during the four-hour ... (click for more)

Police Call Incident At Hamilton Place Mall "Aggravated Riot"; One Juvenile Injured During Stampede

Chattanooga Police are terming an incident at Hamilton Place Mall on Saturday night an "aggravated riot."   Police said there has been no confirmation that any shots were fired, but there was a stampede out of the mall after word spread of a gun incident.   One juvenile was injured and taken to the hospital during the panic and scramble from the mall.   ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Student Leaders Plan Action Against Gun Violence

Students from across Hamilton County gathered at 901 Lindsay St. on Sunday to discuss the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and make plans to take action against gun violence. The student leaders decided to encourage local participation in the National School Walkout on March 14 and the March for Our Lives event on March 24. The group’s next meeting will be held next Sunday ... (click for more)

The Logic of Hysteria: A Hometown Look from A Thousand Miles Away

There was a shooting recently in my hometown, in the parking lot of the mall. It made the national news and I was reading the user comments on the story. Someone was giving their experience about how they heard some rounds fired near the Sears. The next comment was, “They still have a Sears?”   So what the heck happened? The police say there was never an active shooter, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Why CNN Is Gonna Croak

I believe CNN (Cable News Network) has become one of the most disappointing news sources America has ever known in the last five years. The bastions of sound journalism no longer exist as the once-great organization has gone the way of liberal loathing. Its new basis-of-fact cannot be trusted and the overwhelming bias against conservatives in our nation is as morbid as it is frightening. ... (click for more)