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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > June 2015 > Search and Seizure (Warrantless Home Entry, Noise Complaint, Exigency): State of Ohio v. Gorden

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Search and Seizure (Warrantless Home Entry, Noise Complaint, Exigency): State of Ohio v. Gorden

Question: Can an officer prevent someone from closing their door by placing their foot in the doorway without an exception to the warrant requirement?

Quick Answer: No. Unless there are exigent circumstances, the threshold of a home may not be crossed without a warrant. 

State of Ohio v. Gorden, 9th Appellate District, Summit County, June 3, 2015.

Facts: Police officers responded to a complaint of loud music coming from a second-floor apartment. Officers could hear the music when they exited the cruiser. The officers knocked on the door, and James Gorden answered. He was informed of the complaint and told the officers he would turn it down. The officers waited three minutes, but the noise continued. They knocked on the door again, and when Gorden answered they told him he was going to be cited for violating the city’s noise ordinance and requested his identification. At all times Gorden was inside his home. Instead of complying, Gorden said he would turn the music down and attempted to close the door. The officer put his foot in the doorway and demanded his identification again. There was a struggle at the door, and Gorden was eventually arrested. He was charged with having weapons under disability, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and obstructing official business. The trial court granted Gorden’s motion to suppress the evidence. The appellate court agreed that any evidence against Gorden obtained after the officer placed his foot in the doorway should be suppressed.

Importance: Once the threshold of a doorway is crossed, even by a foot preventing the door from being shut, the Fourth Amendment is implicated. Hot pursuit did not apply in this case because the arrest was not attempted in a public place and there was no exigency that justified entry into the home. Since there wasn’t exigency or consent to justify entering the home, the officers would have to get a warrant. 

Keep in Mind: Exigent circumstances will justify a warrantless entry when there is an emergency situation that requires imminent aid to someone in the home, destruction of evidence, or hot pursuit. In determining whether an exigency exists, courts will look at the gravity of the underlying offense and are less likely to find an exigent circumstances exception when it is minor.