The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures conducted by law enforcement personnel. This right is protected in part by the requirement that law enforcement officers obtain search warrants prior to searching for and seizing evidence. Searches conducted without a warrant are generally unreasonable. This warrant requirement is not absolute, however, as the Supreme Court recognizes exceptions when certain exigent circumstances exist. Exigent circumstances exist when there is no time to obtain a warrant and the police are compelled to act quickly. Under such circumstances, searches may be reasonable despite the absence of a warrant.
Though the Supreme Court has upheld warrantless searches where the exigency was related to police action, in each instance, the police conduct involved a response to an exigency, not proactive conduct that created one. When police actions create exigent circumstances, as opposed to merely encountering them during an investigation, courts must determine whether the police action permissibly or impermissibly created the exigency. While this permissibility inquiry may appear straightforward, courts differ on the standard to apply when weighing the propriety of police actions. Circuit courts seem to agree that the basis for any review is the reasonableness of police action but disagree over the role the police officers’ subjective intent should play. . . .