In 2014, George Parks physically and sexually assaulted Desiree Stringer, a former friend and roommate who had come from Louisiana to visit him. He used a knife and a broken golf club to stab her repeatedly and did not allow her to leave the house for 17 hours. When he finally let her go, she drove to the hospital and told Officer Michael Warren what happened.
Police went to the house and Parks met them outside. A consensual Terry frisk revealed cocaine in his shirt pocket which he said was not his. Officer Bryan Wallace and another officer then used exigent circumstances to enter the house for a two minute safety check. This was to ensure that no other victims, suspects, or persons needing medical attention were inside the home.
During the safety search of Parks’s home, Wallace observed marijuana cigarettes in plain view as well as a large amount of dried blood on the floor, the walls, and a bedroom mattress. Police then got a search warrant for the home and found a knife which contained blood matching both Parks and Stringer.
Parks was convicted of sexual battery, kidnaping, aggravated assault, and possession of controlled substance and was sentenced to 60 years. On appeal, he argued the entry into his house was illegal. MCOA affirmed.
As a general rule, warrantless searches of private property are per se unreasonable. However, a warrantless search is permissible in certain exigent circumstances if it can be shown that grounds existed to conduct the search that, had time permitted, would have reasonably satisfied a disinterested magistrate that a warrant should properly issue.
Almost contemporaneously with receiving Warren’s report about Stringer’s statement, law enforcement responded to Parks’s home. Wallace testified that he observed fresh blood on Parks, which was indicative of a recent event. Wallace testified that the sweep, which took less than two minutes, was to determine whether there was anyone else in the residence, such as victims, assailants, or those needing medical attention.
In Fisher v. Michigan, 130 S.Ct. 546 (2009). the U.S. Supreme Court held that law enforcement officials can engage in an exigent warrantless search when there is evidence of a serious and life threatening injury. Based upon the totality of the circumstances, the safety search of Parks’s home was constitutionally permissible and was justified under the exigent circumstances exception.