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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 200408 Find in a Library
Title: Police Response to Anonymous Emergency Calls
Journal: FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin  Volume:72  Issue:5  Dated:May 2003  Pages:23-32
Author(s): Michael L. Ciminelli J.D.
Date Published: May 2003
Page Count: 10
Sponsoring Agency: NCJRS Photocopy Services
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
Sale Source: NCJRS Photocopy Services
Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849-6000
United States of America
Document: HTML
Type: Instructional Material
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Based on relevant court decisions, this article provides legal advice to police agencies on setting rules of procedure for responding to information received from anonymous "911" calls.
Abstract: Although some anonymous 911 calls may have a malicious motive and convey intentionally false information to harass or retaliate against persons identified in the call, the courts have recognized that there may be understandable and legitimate reasons for 911 callers to retain anonymity, such as emergencies that limit the ability of the caller to convey extraneous details, such as identifying information. Also, some callers, particularly neighbors of the persons cited in the call, may be reluctant to give identifying information because of fear of retaliation. Police agencies must decide whether and how to respond to anonymous 911 calls that provide limited information about an emergency situation. Based on relevant court decisions, the police should take reasonable steps to identify the caller before making any entry into a residence identified in the call. Circumstances that can legally justify a warrantless police entry into a residence are the police hearing screams for help, sounds of a struggle, or shots being fired. Where safe and feasible police should take reasonable steps to investigate and corroborate the anonymous call before acting. Further, police should attempt to obtain a valid consent to enter and conduct a search when the police believe this to be necessary. Other recommendations are to accurately document the information given by the anonymous caller; consider the past history of the location named in the anonymous call and any persons involved; document conditions found at the scene that may corroborate the anonymous call; and be prepared to testify fully and accurately regarding any circumstances and evidence that can support probable cause for a warrantless entry into a residence. 72 notes
Main Term(s): Police legal limitations
Index Term(s): Dispatching; Nine-one-one (911) emergency telephone number; Police emergency procedures; Probable cause; Warrantless search
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