EMS can be full of interesting and tricky legal scenarios. While you can’t have an attorney ride with you, it behooves providers to have at least some familiarity with the principles, precedents, and major issues of EMS law. To that end EMS World is pleased to offer the EMS Legal Lesson of the Month.
These cases are presented by prominent attorneys in the EMS field. This month’s comes from Larry Bennett, program chair for fire science and emergency management at the University of Cincinnati. Bennett’s department publishes a monthly Fire & EMS and Safety Law newsletter; subscribe to that by e-mailing Lawrence.email@example.com or read the latest edition here.
Case: Casey Allen Martin v. State of Texas
Decided: May 2019
Verdict: The Texas Court of Appeals Second Appellate District held a trial court had correctly denied Martin’s motion to suppress as evidence illegal drugs found during a house fire.
Facts: Fire broke out in Martin’s apartment, and firefighters were called. Inside they noticed drug paraphernalia and called police in to observe the scene. Officers subsequently obtained a search warrant, which led to the discovery of methamphetamine.
Charged with possession, Martin argued that the exigent circumstances that permitted firefighters to enter the apartment did not also authorize officers to enter and observe the same contraband firefighters had plainly seen. When his motion to suppress was denied, Martin pleaded guilty.
Key quote: “Because the officer’s intrusion did not exceed that of the emergency personnel who were still on scene, Martin suffered no additional injury to his privacy interest due to the officer’s entry.”
Legal lesson: The “plain view rule” is alive and well. The police probably could have seized the meth without a search warrant, but getting the warrant virtually guaranteed a motion to suppress would be denied.