Justified Warrantless Search Example in California

In People v. Johnson (1981) 30 Cal.3d 444, the defendant exchanged angry words with the victim, while the defendant was inside his own car and the victim was standing outside. The defendant then shot the victim, and drove away. (Ibid.) The police found the defendant's car at the home of the defendant's father; both live and spent cartridges were found in the car, although no gun was found. (Ibid.) The defendant's father directed the police to the home of the defendant's girlfriend. (Ibid.) The police entered the home without a warrant, and arrested the defendant, who was lying about six feet from a loaded firearm. (Ibid.) The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of a motion to suppress evidence obtained from the warrantless search of the defendant's car, and the warrantless arrest of the defendant within his girlfriend's home. As to the search of the car, the court held, "the warrantless search was justified by the three grounds of exigency which we identify as: (1) police pursuit of an armed and dangerous suspect ; (2) the danger posed to the officers and public at large by the possibility that a weapon remained in the car; (3) the danger of removal or loss of the evidence from the vehicle." (Id. at p. 451.) As to the warrantless entry to arrest the defendant, the Johnson court quoted from and relied on Escudero in concluding the entry was justified by exigent circumstances. (Johnson, supra, 30 Cal.3d at p. 452.) "Here, the officers were in expeditious pursuit which was continuous and direct. Moreover, as we have stated, defendant was suspected of a violent offense involving the repeated discharge of a firearm. Exigent circumstances validating a defendant's arrest within a dwelling may be deemed to exist when there is a 'likelihood that one of the suspects may have been an armed killer.' Defendant does not argue that the officers did not have probable cause to enter the girlfriend's house, but that the entry should have occurred only after issuance of a warrant because of an absence of exigency. Under the circumstances, we conclude that the officers were fully justified in entering the dwelling to arrest defendant, and we affirm the trial court's denial of the motion to suppress the evidence found in the home." (Id. at pp. 452-453.)