Legal Dictionary

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Exigent Circumstances

Exigent Circumstances refers to emergency situations when law enforcement officers may lawfully, but without a warrant, enter a location (without a warrant) in which a person reasonably expects privacy. Emergencies sufficient to permit a warrantless search include:

  • A residential burglary in progress;
  • police officers in hot pursuit of a fleeing felon;
  • the possibility of destruction or removal of evidence (such as drugs);
  • the need to prevent the criminal suspect's escape; and
  • the risk of danger to law enforcement officers or to others inside the property.

Once law enforcement officers are inside the location they may only take action necessary to resolve the emergency, unless they see evidence or contraband in plain view. A warrant will be required for any additional searching after the emergency has been terminated.

Evidence obtained because of a search by Exigent Circumstances will likely be admissible in court. Exigent Circumstances are also called hot pursuit orfresh pursuit.