MN: Drunk sleeping man who’d just threatened woman with gun could be frisked for weapon under emergency exception, but not Terry

Defendant was drunk in a house allegedly threatening a woman and her infant child with a gun. He passed out. She called the police. The police entered, and defendant was asleep on the couch. They patted him down for a gun, found it without waking him, and then charged him with being a felon in possession. The search of his person was not valid under the community caretaking function, but it was under the emergency aid doctrine because he could wake up and do it all again. Terry v. Ohio was relied on by the court of appeals, and the court doesn’t find it applicable. [On this score, I think the court was wrong. They certainly had reasonable suspicion.] Ries v. State, 2018 Minn. LEXIS 709 (Dec. 6, 2018):

We conclude, however, that the search of Ries by the officers was objectively reasonable under the emergency-aid exception. The record shows that the officers who responded to S.A.’s call for help were objectively motivated by the need to assist her and to prevent serious injury due to the presence of an unsecured handgun. Under the reasonable belief that Ries could wake up at any moment, become startled, and reach for the gun, the officers made an effort to secure the gun before waking Ries. The officers took these actions to protect themselves, S.A., and the others in the apartment, including S.A.’s child.

The totality of these facts—S.A.’s demeanor and call for help, the fact that Ries was intoxicated, and the presence of a handgun on a sleeping person whom officers reasonably believed could wake up and create an immediately life-threatening situation—lead us to conclude that the emergency-aid exception applies here. The officers had reasonable grounds to believe that they were faced with an emergency and that there was an immediate need for their assistance for the protection of life. See Mincey, 437 U.S. at 392 (“[T]he Fourth Amendment does not bar police officers from making warrantless entries and searches when they reasonably believe that a person within is in need of immediate aid.”); Lemieux, 726 N.W.2d at 788. An unsecured firearm in the possession of an intoxicated person poses a grave and immediate threat, especially in the presence of children. Cf. United States v. Antwine, 873 F.2d 1144, 1147 (8th Cir. 1989) (upholding the reasonableness of the warrantless search for and seizure of an unsecured firearm that was motivated by a “legitimate concern for the safety of individuals,” including children).

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