Flippo v. West Virginia, 528 U.S. 11 (1999) (per curiam)

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Per Curiam


on petition for writ of certiorari to the circuit court of west virginia, fayette county*

No. 98-8770. Decided October 18, 1999

After petitioner was indicted for murdering his wife, he moved to suppress evidence that the police discovered in a closed briefcase during a warrantless search of the secured crime scene, a cabin where the couple was vacationing. A West Virginia trial court denied his motion on the ground that the police were entitled to search any crime scene and the objects found there. The State Supreme Court of Appeals denied discretionary review.

Held: The trial court's position squarely conflicts with this Court's holding in Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U. S. 385, that there is no "murder scene exception" to the Fourth Amendment's Warrant Clause. While the police may make warrantless entries onto premises if they reasonably believe a person needs immediate aid and may make prompt warrantless searches of a homicide scene for possible other victims or a killer, a search is not constitutionally permissible simply because a homicide has recently occurred on the premises. Id., at 395. On remand, if properly raised, matters such as the State's contention that the search was consensual, the applicability of any other exception to the warrant rule, or the harmlessness vel non of any error in receiving this evidence may be resolved.

Certiorari granted; reversed and remanded.

Per Curiam.

Petitioner's motion to suppress evidence seized in a warrantless search of a "homicide crime scene" was denied on the ground that the police were entitled to make a thorough search of any crime scene and the objects found

*Petitioner sought a writ directed to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. That court, however, merely declined to exercise discretionary review. The last state court to rule on the merits of this case was the Circuit Court of West Virginia, Fayette County, to which the writ is therefore addressed.


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