7 Factors to Determine Whether a Warrantless Police Entry Into a Home Is Justified

In People v. Abney, 81 Ill. 2d 159, 168, 41 Ill. Dec. 45, 407 N.E.2d 543 (1980), the supreme court articulated a general set of factors to determine whether a warrantless entry into a home is justified. The most commonly referenced factors that may establish the existence of exigent circumstances include: (1) whether the offense under investigation was recently committed; (2) whether there was any deliberate or unjustifiable delay by the officers during which time a warrant could have been obtained; (3) whether a grave offense was involved, particularly one of violence; (4) whether the suspect was reasonably believed to be armed; (5) whether the police officers were acting upon a clear showing of probable cause; (6) whether there was a likelihood that the suspect would have escaped if not swiftly apprehended; (7) whether there was a strong reason to believe that the suspect was on the premises; (8) whether the police entry, though nonconsensual, was made peaceably. Abney, 81 Ill. 2d at 169-72. Courts have also found exigent circumstances where police are in "hot pursuit" of a suspect who flees from a public place into his residence. United States v. Santana, 427 U.S. 38, 49 L. Ed. 2d 300, 96 S. Ct. 2406 (1976). The presence of all factors in a given situation is not necessary. People v. Cobb, 97 Ill. 2d 465, 74 Ill. Dec. 1, 455 N.E.2d 31 (1983). Rather, these factors are guidelines and not cardinal maxims to be applied rigidly in each case. People v. White, 117 Ill. 2d 194, 111 Ill. Dec. 288, 512 N.E.2d 677 (1987). The guiding principle is reasonableness, and each case is evaluated based upon the totality of the circumstances known to the officers at the time of the warrantless entry. People v. Yates, 98 Ill. 2d 502, 515, 75 Ill. Dec. 188, 456 N.E.2d 1369 (1983). In Abney, the court held that exigent circumstances existed where the suspect was apprehended 1 1/2 hours after the victim was beaten with a crowbar and a pistol. The receipt of such information about a recent offense, the court noted, could suggest to the officers the need for prompt action. Abney, 81 Ill. 2d at 169. Closely related to the fact that the officers acted promptly, was the fact that there was no deliberate or unjustified delay by the officers during which time a warrant could have been obtained. Abney, 81 Ill. 2d at 170. Finally, the need for prompt action was made apparent by the belief based on factual circumstances, that the suspect was armed and exhibited signs of a violent character. Abney, 81 Ill. 2d at 171.