ND: 9 hour old call about a suicidal man was no longer emergency; “Every emergency ends at some point.”

A nine hour old report of a man claiming suicidal ideations was no longer an emergency when the police got it. It was also vague and uncorroborated. “Every emergency ends at some point.” And this one did before the entry. State v. Hyde, 2017 ND 186, 2017 N.D. LEXIS 195 (July 31, 2017):

[*P19] As we explain below, the record shows the evidence available to the deputies at the time of the search did not establish reasonable grounds to believe there was an emergency and an immediate need for assistance to protect Hyde’s life. In combination, the lack of reliability, the vagueness of the information, and the delay in response lead us to conclude that the district court’s application of the emergency exception was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

[*P20] First, the information available to the officers was not on its face reliable in that its source was remote and the officers had no first-hand corroboration. The call to the dispatcher was from Hyde’s brother. Coming from a family member, the source of the information does not raise questions, but the information conveyed was that “suicidal comments” were made to someone else, Hyde’s mother. By the time it reached the deputies, they knew the information had passed through multiple people. Hyde spoke to his mother, who told his brother, who told the dispatcher, who told the responding deputies. As in the telephone game played by children, the more people in the chain, the greater the likelihood that the message will change despite the best efforts to accurately pass on an accurate message. The Free Dictionary by Farlex, Telephone (game) (July 21, 2017) http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Telephone+(game); see also United States v. Gonzalez, 2010 WL 2721882, *7 fn 12 (N.D. Ga. 2010). Even between what the dispatcher wrote in the log (“crying” and “suicidal ideations”) and what the deputy heard from the dispatcher (“just general sort of suicidal comments”), there is a loss of detail and change in emphasis. The record does not tell us what detail may have been lost or changed between Hyde’s original statement to his mother and what his brother told the dispatcher. Nothing the officers directly observed corroborated the comments. To the contrary, the landlord’s comments that Hyde did not seem distressed the night before contradicted the information from Hyde’s brother.

[*P21] Second, the report of “suicidal comments” is vague and lacks sufficient detail to support a reasonable basis to believe there was an ongoing emergency. Suicidal comments may indicate an imminent likelihood of a suicide attempt, but they may not. The deputies were not informed about a weapon or specific threat, nor were they told a suicide attempt was imminent. The district court simply found “[t]he officers believed Hyde may harm himself (or already had harmed himself) and needed assistance.” The district court did not explain what details led it to conclude that any assistance Hyde may have needed was required immediately. The court did not specifically find a need for immediate assistance, only that Hyde “needed assistance.” Our cases require a need for immediate assistance to sidestep the warrant requirement, not merely a need for assistance.

[*P22] Third, the more than nine-hour delay between the comments and the search weighs against a finding there was an immediate need for assistance. The responding deputies reasonably would want to ensure Hyde had not followed through with his suicidal comments. Every emergency ends at some point. …

This entry was posted in Emergency / exigency. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.