Is it legal for the police to enter my home without permission and without a warrant to conduct a “welfare check”?

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Is it legal for the police to enter my home without permission and without a warrant to conduct a “welfare check”?

I was out on my pontoon sunbathing and drinking alcohol, which was anchored, and fell asleep. The anchor became loose and I drifted into shore where I was awoken by people on the dock. I said I was sorry and started my boat and drove it home. When I got home, a man pulled up beside me on a jet ski and told me that he was an off duty state trooper and was calling me in. I went into my house and closed the door. A short time later, deputies entered my home saying they were doing a welfare check on me. Then they had me perform the DWI tests which I failed and they took me to jail. They also searched my pontoon and cooler.

Asked on July 29, 2013 under Criminal Law, Minnesota

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

Searches can be performed without a search warrant (i.e. "warrantless searches") in certain circumstances. It is up to a court to determine if such a search was reasonable. In other words, that the police's judgment to search was based on logical criminal suspicion.

Warrentless search are permitted under the following conditions: consent is given for the search; evidence of criminal activity is in "plain view"; a search is that is "incidental to an arrest" (i.e. a person is arrested and both they and the immediate area of where they could acquire a weapon or hide/destroy evidence following the arrest is searched); "exigent" or emergency circumstances (i.e. the police feel someone's safety is at risk or criminal activity is occurring); and searches of cars and their occupants (if the passenger compartment was within reach of someone removed from the vehicle, if the police think that there is evidence in there, or if a suspect had access to the vehicle during the time of the arrest).

A welfare check would fall under the last exception. However, based on the facts of your case it's not clear that such emergency conditions existed. What you should do now is to consult directly with a criminal law attorney in your area. Go over the details of your situation and have them review all of the facts. They then will be in the best position to advise you.

Tricia Dwyer / Tricia Dwyer Esq & Associates PLLC

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Hello. First, you should not post private information on a public website. Second, you should contact a private attorney immediately for legal assistance.  The attorney assisting you will carefully examine the full details of the incident.  I would be happy to make arrangements to assist you.

This website provides general information and general principles of law and does not provide private legal advice. Some attorneys are available seven days for emergency legal needs. Many attorneys will confer initially at no charge. Then, if legal work is performed, some attorneys will provide a reduced fee for financial hardship. Some attorneys may also assist you in limited scope manner to conserve legal costs. All the best.

 

Tricia Dwyer, Esq.

Phone: 612-296-9666

[email protected]

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