People v. Ramsey, 2017 IL App (1st) 160977 (August). Episode 391 (Duration 8:51)
Police take some bloody glass from defendant’s house after responding to an emergency; did they need a search warrant?
Defendant arranged with the victim to pay her for sex on line.
As they got to the top of the stairs, Ramsey placed his hand on F.S.’s shoulder, held a knife to her neck, and told her not to scream or he would kill her. Ramsey told F.S. to “get on the couch” in the bedroom and take off her clothes. After F.S. disrobed and while Ramsey still held the knife, he demanded that F.S. perform oral sex on him.
He sexually assaulted her.
Ramsey was interrupted by his phone ringing.
Ties Her To A Bench
He took F.S. to an exercise bench in the room and tied her to the bench with her hands behind her back and put a sock in her mouth so she could not scream. Ramsey dressed and left the room to return the phone call. While Ramsey was out of the room, F.S. was able to free her hands. She then punched out a window in the room. When she could not escape through the window, she leaned out the window and called out for help.
Screams For Help
Ramsey then returned and pulled F.S. back into the room by her hair. As they struggled, Ramsey bit F.S.’s shoulder and punched her face and head several times.
Alphonzo Wells, Ramsey’s next door neighbor, was outside washing his truck around noon that day. Wells heard the screams, saw a hand pull F.S. back into the house and called 911.
Ramsey told F.S. to get dressed and to go wash the blood off her face because the police would be arriving soon.
As Ramsey stood by the front door, other officers entered the home. F.S., crying, disheveled, and with scratches on her arms, ran down the stairs and towards the officers. Police noticed blood droplets on his T-shirt. Another officer noticed glass on the sidewalk under the broken window. Ramsey told the officers he had gotten into a fight with his girlfriend.
Ramsey was placed under arrest, and F.S. was taken to the hospital by ambulance.
The Walk Through
Officers walked through both floors of the residence to determine whether other perpetrators or victims were present.
They checked closets, under the beds, and anywhere else a person could be hiding. There is no evidence that the officers opened drawers or otherwise searched in locations where a human being could not hide. In the second floor bedroom, they noticed a knife and exercise equipment.
The officers did not take any items at that time.
Evidence Tech Shows Up
About an hour later, an evidence technician entered the home and recovered the knife, an exercise cord, an audiovisual cord wrapped around a piece of exercise equipment, and a container of petroleum jelly.
The technician also recovered a latex condom from the floor of the bedroom by the bed.
The technician remained in the house for about 20 minutes, collecting the items in the bedroom and taking photographs.
Before trial, Ramsey filed a motion to suppress items recovered from and photographs taken inside his home.
Ramsey claims the police were unjustified in entering and searching the residence after he was arrested and an ambulance was called for F.S. He also contends that the delay in recovering the items, necessitating a second entry by the evidence technician, provides additional grounds for suppression.
Ramsey argued that because there were no exigent circumstances, police were required to obtain a warrant to search his home after he was arrested.
The State contended that officers responding to the 911 call had probable cause to enter the home in order to locate any victims or other offenders, particularly in light of Ramsey’s admission that he had been fighting with his “girlfriend.” Once inside the home, police saw in plain view a broken window, blood on the windowsill, and the items eventually recovered.
Emergency Aid Exception
The fourth amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right of citizens to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const., amend. IV.
As a general rule, warrantless searches are deemed unreasonable. People v. Jones, 215 Ill. 2d 261, 269 (2005). But exceptions to the warrant requirement exist, and the totality of the circumstances can render a warrantless search reasonable under the fourth amendment.
One such exception is the emergency aid exception, which permits a warrantless entry into a home in emergency situations.
If officers believe it is necessary to enter a home “to render emergency assistance to an injured occupant or to protect an occupant from imminent injury,” warrantless entry is permitted. As long as police have
(i) reasonable grounds to believe an emergency exists and
(ii) a reasonable basis “approximating probable cause” that the area searched is associated with the emergency, the warrant exception will apply.
Evidence of a crime discovered during an emergency entry may also be seized without a warrant.
In particular, evidence in plain view may be seized during an emergency entry as long as police have probable cause to associate the evidence with criminal activity. Jones, 215 Ill. 2d at 271-72 (plain view doctrine allows police to seize an object without a warrant); People v. Jackson, 149 Ill. App. 3d 156, 159 (1986).
As applied here, the emergency aid exception justified the warrantless entry of Ramsey’s residence, the search of the residence to locate other potential victims or offenders and the seizure of the evidence in plain view reasonably associated with Ramsey’s assault of F.S.
When police arrived in response to the 911 call from Wells, they spoke to Wells, saw broken glass on the ground under the second floor window, and encountered Ramsey at his front door.
Ramsey’s appearance (nervous, sweaty, blood droplets on his T-shirt), as well as his spontaneous statement that he and his girlfriend had just had a fight, gave police probable cause both to arrest Ramsey and enter the residence. Once inside, when officers saw F.S., crying and with cut marks on her arms, it was reasonable for them to walk through the entire residence to determine whether anyone else was present.
There is no evidence that officers exceeded the scope of the permissible search by opening drawers or looking in, for example, kitchen cabinets. And once the officers saw items in plain view in the bedroom, which they reasonably believed were associated with Ramsey’s assault on F.S. (a knife, cords, petroleum jelly and a condom), they were justified in seizing those items.
The Defense Is Wrong
The U.S. Supreme Court cases relied on by Ramsey are readily distinguishable.
In each, police conducted an exhaustive warrantless search of a defendant’s residence after entering in response to an emergency.
For example, in Mincey, the warrantless search lasted for several days while police conducted an exhaustive search of defendant’s residence for potential evidence in connection with the murder of an undercover police officer. Thompson v. Louisiana, 469 U.S. 17 (1984). Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385 (1978). Flippo v. West Virginia, 528 U.S. 11 (1999).
In contrast, when police entered Ramsey’s home and encountered F.S., it was eminently reasonable for them to walk through the residence to determine if anyone else was present.
And when during that permissible search they saw items in plain view in the bedroom where the attack occurred, which obviously related to the attack, they were entitled to seize that evidence, again without a warrant.
Courts have recognized that if seizure is justified under the plain view doctrine, the fact that the ultimate recovery of the evidence is accomplished not by the officer who first saw the evidence, but by another member of law enforcement, does not invalidate the seizure.
Once the privacy of the residence has been lawfully invaded, it is senseless to require a warrant for others to enter and complete what those already on the scene would be justified in doing. Thus, because police properly entered Ramsey’s residence and conducted a limited search necessary to determine the presence of others and because the evidence ultimately recovered by an evidence technician was in plain view and its relation to the crime was readily apparent, the trial court properly denied Ramsey’s motion to suppress.