Post details: N.D.Tex.: To be effective, abandonment has to occur before search, not after

04/25/13

Permalink 07:09:47 am, by fourth, 487 words, 540 views   English (US)
Categories: General

N.D.Tex.: To be effective, abandonment has to occur before search, not after

There was a robbery of a cab driver outside a hotel, and the suspect fled into the hotel. Hotel security could see him go to the fifth floor and followed. On the fifth floor, he wasn’t seen, but two men were talking loudly in a room and hotel security knocked. Nobody came to the door and it got quiet. The security person returned to the lobby. When police arrived, he took them to the room. The police entry into the room, while a close question, was with exigent circumstances because of the possibility that he holed up in a room of somebody else and had them hostage. He wasn’t the renter of the room. Finally, to be an abandonment, disclaiming ownership of property seized by the government has to occur before the search not after. United States v. Ojonugwa, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57777 (N.D. Tex. April 23, 2013):

[More:]

The Government argues that exigent circumstances existed in this case because the officers believed a suspect in a violent assault was in room 527, and they did not know whether he was armed and a danger to other guests of the hotel. In response, Ojonugwa contends that there were no exigent circumstances because there was no threat to safety since the suspect was inside the hotel room, the officers were not in hot pursuit, and law enforcement had no belief or reason to believe that the suspect would, or even could, flee before a warrant could be obtained.

The Court finds that the officers' entry into room 527 was based on the presence of exigent circumstances. Several of the officers, including Officer Cazelle, testified that they were concerned that the suspect did not belong in room 527 and could potentially have harmed other guests in the hotel. Gordon testified that he was concerned for the safety of hotel guests, knowing that a man had harmed someone near the hotel property and then ran into the hotel in the early morning hours. The fact that at least four armed police officers quickly arrived on the scene in the early morning evidences the officers' serious concern for the safety of hotel guests. The evidence reveals that the officers did not know whether the suspect was armed and whether he was authorized to enter room 527. The occupants' failure to allow entry into the room after Gordon and the police officers repeatedly knocked reasonably caused officers to be concerned about risks to the occupants of room 527 and guests of the hotel. The Court further notes that the officers would likely have experienced a delay in obtaining a warrant between 3 and 6 a.m. on a Saturday during which time a possibly armed suspect in a violent assault could have injured occupants of room 527 and other guests. Walls between the hotel rooms would not have protected other guests had the suspect been armed and fired a weapon.

Admittedly, the question of exigent circumstances is a close one. ...

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