NH: When an overdose call is made to 911, it isn’t unreasonable for a police officer to enter with EMTs or the FD

When an overdose call is made to 911, it isn’t unreasonable for a police officer to enter with EMTs or the fire department. State v. Eldridge, 2020 N.H. LEXIS 18 (Feb. 19. 2020):

The defendant concedes that an emergency existed. However, he argues that the State failed to establish, under the first prong of the analysis, that the police had objectively reasonable grounds to believe there was an immediate need for their assistance to protect his life because the members of the Concord Fire Department, who carried Narcan and provided him medical treatment, arrived at the apartment at the same time as the first officer. The defendant’s argument, however, asks us to view the officers’ entry in light of circumstances that became apparent after the emergency subsided, i.e., that the officers were not called upon to render medical assistance. The first prong of our analysis focuses not on the actual assistance rendered or, in this case, not rendered by the officers, but on their objective beliefs regarding the immediate need for their assistance. See MacElman, 149 N.H. at 798.

The officers who initially responded to the defendant’s apartment were notified that he was unconscious, not breathing, “turning purple,” and suspected to have overdosed. The officers could have reasonably believed that their assistance would be necessary to save the defendant’s life, for example by assisting in providing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, even though medical personnel were also on scene. See, e.g., Plummer v. District of Columbia, 317 F. Supp. 3d 50, 63 (D.D.C. 2018) (concluding that the police justifiably entered a garage without a warrant after medical services had arrived to “ensure that [an unresponsive individual] received prompt medical evaluation and possible treatment”); People v. Amato, 562 P.2d 422, 423-24 (Colo. 1977) (holding that the police validly entered a residence without a warrant in response to a “possible overdose” call despite the fact that medical personnel had already arrived); cf. Bray v. State, 597 S.W.2d 763, 768 (Tex. Crim. App. 1980) (warrantless entry not valid when officers knew that defendant was no longer “in any serious distress”).

The defendant also argues, under the third prong of the analysis, that the officers were primarily motivated by an intent to seek evidence of a crime because they “had nothing to offer in terms of resolving the medical emergency.” As the trial court found, however, when the initial officers arrived they “had no reason to believe that emergency assistance was no longer required or that the emergency had been resolved.” That the police officers did not in fact provide any medical treatment does not reveal a primary motivation to enter the apartment in order to seek evidence of a crime.

Accordingly, we conclude that the officers’ initial entry into the defendant’s apartment was justified under the emergency aid exception to the warrant requirement. The Federal Constitution provides the defendant no greater protection under these circumstances, see Brigham City v. Stuart, 547 U.S. 398, 406-07 (2006); Michigan v. Fisher, 558 U.S. 45, 48-49 (2009), and we therefore reach the same result under the Federal Constitution as we do under the State Constitution.

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