Wednesday, May 05, 2010

People v. Norton (Cal. Ct. App. - May 5, 2010)

I think this is right.

M.D. calls the police and says her boyfriend is vandalizing her car. The police arrive five minutes later and knock on M.D.'s door, at which point (after five or six knocks) the boyfriend opens the door and says to the police "What the f**k do you want?" Hmmm.

The police call into the apartment for M.D., but she doesn't answer. The boyfriend, who's increasingly agitated, says she's asleep. But that seems totally fishy to me. She just called the cops five minutes ago. About her boyfriend vandalizing her car, and now the boyfriend is in her apartment. Angry. Somehow, I don't think she's asleep. And she's not answering the police.

So the police enter the apartment. Admittedly without consent or a warrant. And find M.D. in a rear bedroom, crouching behind the bed where her young children are sleeping, with bruises all over her legs and clearly frightened of her boyfriend.

Which, I'm sure, is exactly what the police expected. Though probably also feared that she might be dead, so were undoubtedly happy she wasn't.

The boyfriend -- Jeff Norton -- alleges that the warrantless search was impermissible. But I agree with Justice Jenkins that it's okay under the "emergency aid" exception. Mind you, I am of the view that courts often expand this exception way beyond its proper limits. But not here. Here, it's reasonable to assume that there's something fishy going on, and that M.D. might well be in trouble. So the police can legitimately check. Even without a warrant.

So I'm down with this one. Seems right to me.