An Appeal to Remember

In Hunsberger v. Wood, the Fourth Circuit ruled that because the objective circumstances confronted by defendant, an on-duty police officer, on the night in question suggested that plaintiffs’ home was being vandalized and that a missing teenage girl was in the house and in need of assistance, the search was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment exigent circumstances doctrine. The court maintained the distinction between the exigent circumstances doctrine and community caretaker doctrine by stipulating that when the search in question is performed by a law enforcement officer responding to an emergency, and not as part of a standardized procedure, the exigent circumstances analysis and its accompanying objective standard should apply. In the case, the plaintiffs argued that Wood violated the Constitution when he entered the first floor of the Hunsberger home from the garage. Accordingly, the court decided that it is the circumstances at that time that are relevant to whether his entry was justified, which implicates the exigent circumstances doctrine.

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