US v. Taylor: This is an odd Fourth Amendment case. An officer is called to a parking lot in Richmond by a taxi driver who has found a 4-year-old girl wandering the streets alone. The driver pointed out a nearby row house to the officer which the girl had told the driver was her home. The driver and girl had gone to the house, where the front door was open, but nobody inside responded to his inquiries. The officer talked to the girl, who said there was nobody at home to take care of her and that she was waiting on a bus to take her to day care. The officer and the girl returned to the house. When nobody answered the officer's inquiry, the girl went inside. The officer followed. He eventually went to the second floor, where he heard a male voice from a bedroom.
The officer went to the bedroom and found Taylor, who was the girl's father. He "became angry" and explained that the girl was suspended from day care and was not supposed to catch the bus. On a cabinet next to the bed was a "plastic bag containing .22 caliber bullets." Although Taylor denied having a gun, the officer asked him for identification, which Taylor claimed he did not have. He eventually gave the officer a fake name and date of birth. After backup arrived and was trying to verify Taylor's identity, the first officer did a protective sweep and discovered a handgun under the mattress. While the officer was using Taylor's cell phone (with permission), there was an incoming call from the girl's mother who identified Taylor. Armed with Taylor's actual identity, the officers discovered that he was both a convicted felon and the subject of outstanding arrest warrants. He was arrested and later charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The district court denied Taylor's motion to suppress the evidence discovered during the warrantless search of Taylor's home, after which Taylor pleaded guilty.
On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the suppression motion. Because the officer who initiated the search was not involved in a criminal justice investigation, the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment had no application. Similarly probable cause was unnecessary. The only restraint on the search was that it was "reasonable." This search was reasonable because it was triggered by an exigent circumstance - "this four-year-old girl's unsupervised odyssey." "Few places could be less appropriate for an unattended child," the court concluded, than the busy streets of Richmond. As to what occurred after the officer entered the house, the court found "nothing unreasonable in this chain of events."