CA5: Sounds inside at a knock-and-talk created exigency

Police did a knock-and-talk on a motel room door, and the sound of scrambling inside and a toilet flush was exigency. Also, defendant was a casual visitor almost certainly without standing. United States v. Daniels, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 20449 (5th Cir. July 10, 2019):

Daniels argues that a “single toilet flush” was not enough to justify entry. If a solitary flush were the only evidence of exigency in the record, he might be right. But the officers relied on more than just the flush. In fact, they were flush with exigency evidence. After he knocked, Agent Greaves could hear “running throughout the room, running back and forth like from the right side where the door was back to the left side by the window.” He says there were times when James’s “voice was real close to the door” and when he “could tell he was much further away from the door,” indicating that James was running back and forth. Agent Greaves had told James he was a police officer, so he was “aware that the police [were] on [his] trail.” And Agent Webber testified that it is “not uncommon for drug dealers to flush narcotics down the toilet.” Combined with the toilet-flushing sounds, this all reasonably suggests that the room’s occupants might have been attempting to destroy evidence. The Aguirre factors therefore suggest that exigent circumstances existed justifying the warrantless search. So, the district court did not err in finding there was an exigency to justify the warrantless search. The officers had a full house of evidence, and a full house beats a flush.

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