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Exigent circumstances justified warrantless entry to hotel room

State v. Jeffrey F. Smart, 2014AP2604, District 2, 5/27/15 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

The warrantless entry into Smart’s hotel room was supported by probable cause and justified by exigent circumstances because there was an objective basis to believe there was a risk to the safety of Smart’s children.

One exception to the warrant requirement is entry supported by probable cause and exigent circumstances, which include a threat to the safety of the suspect or other individuals, State v. Robinson, 2010 WI 80, ¶¶24, 30, 327 Wis. 2d 302, 786 N.W.2d 463.

¶8        In this case, the exigent circumstances test supports the officers’ entry into Smart’s hotel room without obtaining a warrant. Smart’s girlfriend called the police in the middle of a cold, November night. She told them that an intoxicated Smart left the home in a vehicle with his two children. When police found the vehicle [in a hotel parking lot] the children were not inside it. And, the night duty attendant did not see the children when Smart checked in. By the time officers located Smart’s hotel room, a significant amount of time had elapsed and there was still no sign of the children. The safety of Smart’s children was paramount, and it was reasonable for the officers to enter the hotel room as quickly as possible to ensure their well-being. …

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