According to the Leavenworth Times, 27-year-old Amber Robinson told police last Wednesday that her estranged husband had shot her while she was trying to get out of her car. She had gunshot wounds to her head and neck, but was still conscious and coherent enough to identify her attacker. Police went to his house, but he didn't answer the door — and they said they didn't have probable cause to enter. They only did go in after other family members stormed his house and found him dead, having committed suicide. At that point they also found the gun they think was used to shoot Robinson.
Wondering in what universe bleeding gunshot wounds aren't probable cause? Us too! Of course, one thing to keep in mind is that "probable cause" usually refers to circumstances under which a judge will issue a search warrant — and maybe police had left the scene to work on getting one. But there are circumstances where police can and do make warrantless searches — and according to Nolo.com, "the police are authorized to make a warrantless search when the time it would take to get a warrant would jeopardize public safety or lead to the loss of important evidence." And since they had no idea the suspect was dead, weren't they risking allowing him to flee or shoot more people by staying out of his house? I'm all for legal searches and limiting the power of police where appropriate — and I'd love to hear from anyone who's familiar with the specific case law on victim's statements as probable cause for warrantless searches. But as it stands now, this looks like a case of a domestic violence victim who couldn't get the police to take her seriously — even when she was bleeding.
Update: A number of commenters with more legal expertise than I argue that this case doesn't meet the standards where a warrantless search would be legal. I'm still curious about what the police process was and whether they were working on getting a warrant before they were called back, and I'll let you know if new information comes up. Meanwhile, the victim was in critical condition as of last week.
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