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Community-caretaking duties permits warrantless search

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A warrantless search that led to discovery of marijuana and a handgun did not violate the Fourth Amendment because the police found the items as part of their “community-caretaking” duties.

The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected Nick McIlquham’s challenge to the search of his apartment and affirmed his convictions in Nick McIlquham v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1212-CR-631. The court ruled the community-caretaking exception to the warrant requirement allowed for this warrantless search.

Two Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers searched McIlquham’s apartment over concerns about the welfare of his young daughter who had been found partially naked wandering alone near a retention pond.

They discovered the drugs and loaded .22 caliber handgun. McIlquham was subsequently convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, a Class B felony; neglect of a dependent, a class D felony; possession of marijuana, a class A misdemeanor; and possession of paraphernalia, a class A misdemeanor.  

McIlquham appealed, arguing the evidence should have been excluded at his trial. He claimed neither he nor the individual renting the apartment gave permission to the officers to look around which made the search a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.

The appeals court disagreed on the grounds that the “community-caretaking function” of the police makes the warrantless search objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

Police, in addition to their duties to enforce criminal laws, are called upon to do a variety of tasks that enhance and maintain the safety of the community. Questions about McIlquham’s daughter’s home life met the community-caretaking standard.

 “In our view, there were certainly objectively reasonable concerns about McIlquham’s right to retain custody of R. in light of the conditions and circumstances in which she was discovered,” Judge John Baker wrote. “Moreover, not allowing the police to conduct a community-caretaking function to operate in a case such as this one – at least to the extent of allowing a non-violent entry into a home to conduct a cursory visual inspection of the interior of the residence and its occupants – would result in the unreasonableness that Fourth Amendment jurisprudence seeks to avoid.”



 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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