ROLAND G. HILL; MARY R. HILL, Plaintiffs, Appellants,
EDWARD WALSH, individually and in his official capacity as Chief of the City of Taunton Police Department; CITY OF TAUNTON, MA; DEBORAH LAVOIE; WILLIAM HENAULT; TROY ENOS; JOSEPH MARQUES, Defendants, Appellees.
FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MASSACHUSETTS Hon. Richard G. Stearns, U.S. District Judge
W. Patten for appellants.
F. de Abreau, First Assistant City Solicitor, for appellee
Howard, Chief Judge, Lynch and Thompson, Circuit Judges
opinion, we bring our circuit law into conformity with the
Supreme Court's precedent on the emergency aid exception
to the Fourth Amendment requirement that a warrant be
obtained before police entry into homes. We explain below.
March 3, 2015, Matthew Hill, age 28, overdosed and was taken
to Morton Hospital in Taunton, Massachusetts. The next day,
several Taunton police officers arrived at his parents'
home to escort Matthew to a state court civil-commitment
hearing. On Matthew's sister's application, a Taunton
district judge had issued a warrant earlier that day to
apprehend Matthew pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123, §
35. The warrant indicated both that Matthew was currently at
the hospital and that his home address was 3 Eldridge Street.
The officers went to that address. When two officers thought
that they saw movement inside the home, but no one came to
the door, the police entered, believing Matthew to be in
danger of overdosing inside. Damage was done to the home as
the officers subdued the Hills' dogs upon entry.
parents, who owned the home at 3 Eldridge Street, brought
suit against the officers and the City of Taunton under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the police's entry had
violated their Fourth Amendment rights. They also raised two
related state law claims. The district court entered judgment
in favor of the officers and the City on all counts on the
grounds that there was no Fourth Amendment violation. We
affirm on a different basis.
the law on the emergency aid exception to the warrant
requirement was not clearly established at the time of the
incident, we uphold the district court's entry of
judgment based on qualified immunity. We also take this
opportunity to clarify our circuit's emergency aid
doctrine: officers seeking to justify their warrantless entry
need only demonstrate "'an objectively reasonable
basis for believing' that 'a person within [the
house] is in need of immediate aid.'" Michigan
v. Fisher, 558 U.S. 45, 47 (2009) (alteration in
original) (internal quotations omitted). They do not need to
establish that their belief approximated probable cause that
such an emergency existed. We thus modify our previous
pronouncements in United States v. Martins, 413 F.3d
139 (1st Cir. 2005), and its progeny.
plaintiffs, Roland and Mary Hill, have lived at 3 Eldridge
Street in Taunton, Massachusetts for over twenty years. Their
adult son, Matthew Hill, grew up there. Over the last decade,
Matthew has struggled with opioid addiction and substance
abuse. At the time of the incident giving rise to this case,
Matthew was staying at 44 Weir Street, an apartment building
owned by his father, and had done so for approximately six
March 3, 2015 Incident
evening of March 3, 2015, Matthew's sister, Amanda Hill,
called 911 upon discovering Matthew behind his building at 44
Weir Street, on the verge of an overdose. Matthew was barely
able to stand, with "eyes . . . rolling to the back of
his head." Amanda told the emergency responder that
"Matthew . . . was going to kill himself if he
didn't get help." An ambulance and police officers
from the Taunton Police Department ("TPD") were
immediately dispatched to 44 Weir Street.
violent struggle, the police subdued Matthew and transported
him to Morton Hospital in Taunton. In response to the
incident, the dispatcher on duty placed an entry in the
police blotter indicating that Matthew had been taken to
Morton Hospital. Matthew remained there as a patient until he
was discharged into the TPD's custody on March 5, 2015.
Application for a Section 35 Warrant
next day, March 4, 2015, Amanda filed a petition in Taunton
district court to civilly commit Matthew as a substance
abuser pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 123, § 35.
Section 35 permits the court to issue a warrant "for the
apprehension and appearance" of an individual if
"there are reasonable grounds to believe that [he] will
not appear [at his civil commitment hearing] and that any
further delay in the proceedings would present an immediate
danger to [his] physical well-being . . . ."
was the second time Amanda had filed a section 35 petition as
to Matthew. Her first attempt to have him committed, a few
months before, was unsuccessful because the police had been
unable to locate Matthew before the warrant for apprehension
March 4, 2015, the state district judge determined that a
warrant for apprehension under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 125,
§ 35, was necessary in Matthew's case, and issued
one at 2:20 PM. The section 35 warrant had in its subject
line, "Matthew Hill, 3 Eldridge Street." Directly
below, in boldfaced text, it read: "CURRENTLY AT MORTON
HOSPITAL." This information was taken from Amanda's
petition, which listed "3 Eldridge Street" as
Matthew's address, and indicated that he was currently at
Morton Hospital. The section 35 warrant also stated that
unless the subject of the warrant could be "brought
before a judge prior to 4:30 PM on the same day that it is
executed, " it would expire.
Execution of the ...