Appeal from the Superior Court in Navajo County. The Honorable Robert J. Higgins, Judge. No. CR-2011-01027. Opinion of the Court of Appeals, Division One, 235 Ariz. 447, 333 P.3d 774 (2014) .
Appeal from the Superior Court in Navajo County, REVERSED AND REMANDED. Opinion of the Court of Appeals, Division One, AFFIRMED IN PART AND DEPUBLISHED.
Brett R. Rigg, Shane J. Shumway (argued), The Rigg Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Pinetop, Attorneys for Bradley Harold Wilson.
Mark Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General, John R. Lopez IV, Solicitor General, Joseph T. Maziarz, Chief Counsel, Criminal Appeals Section, Myles A. Braccio (argued), Assistant Attorney General, Phoenix, Attorneys for State of Arizona.
CHIEF JUSTICE BALES authored the opinion of the Court, in which VICE CHIEF JUSTICE PELANDER and JUSTICES BERCH, BRUTINEL, and TIMMER joined.
CHIEF JUSTICE BALES, J.
¶1 The Fourth Amendment generally requires police to obtain a warrant to search a home. Courts have recognized exceptions to this requirement, such as the exigent circumstances and emergency aid exceptions. The State here urges us to extend the community caretaking exception, which applies to certain vehicle searches, to justify the warrantless search of a home. We decline to do so.
¶2 Police officers and paramedics went to Bradley Wilson's residence after neighbors complained about his erratic behavior. Wilson said that he had " up to seven pounds of mercury" in his house in a glass jar and that he and his family had been handling the mercury over several years. Concerned about possible contamination, a paramedic contacted the fire department, which ordered Wilson to be " rinsed off." Wilson complied and was taken to a hospital to be examined.
¶3 The fire department sent a volunteer firefighter who had experience dealing with mercury spills to assess the situation at Wilson's home. Believing they should gather information for Wilson's medical treatment and noting that the outside temperature was approaching mercury's vaporization point, the firefighter and a police officer entered the home " to see if there was mercury, to see where it was at and how much there was, and
get an idea of what [they] were actually dealing with."
¶4 Once inside, the officer smelled marijuana. He traced the smell to a laundry room, where several marijuana plants were hidden by a hanging blanket. The officer left and obtained a search warrant. He then re-entered the home and seized the marijuana. No mercury was found, though the officer saw an " indication of mercury" in the hallway and the firefighter saw traces on the ...