US v. Stafford
No. 04-30134 (8-3-05). The 9th upholds a warrantless search of an apartment by police under the "emergency exception." The smoke alarm was being tested by maintenance when he noted a strong oder that seemed like rotting flesh. He inspected the apartment, and found blood smeared on the walls, along with feces, and syringes littering the bathroom. Concerned that someone had died, the maintenance man told his supervisor and they called the police. The police came, and looked for the body. There was none. There were assault weapons and armor piercing bullets and a photo, that was traced to the defendant. The 9th concluded that the reports of a dead body, or someone hurt, justified the exception under an emergency. The emergency could have arisen because the blood might have indicated someone still needed help, or the syringes indicated an overdose. In dissent, Canby argues that the police had time to get a telephonic warrant: no body was seen by the maintenance person; the smell could be explained obviously by the syringes, and the toilet was stopped up; there were no moans or evidence of someone in need.