enforcement officers were dispatched to Michael Clifford
Boisselle's home after two anonymous 911 calls reported
that a man named Mike shot and possibly killed someone at the
residence. While responding to the calls, the officers
learned that the residence was related to an ongoing missing
person/homicide investigation. Unable to determine whether
someone was alive inside the home, the officers entered the
residence and conducted a warrantless search, discovering
evidence of a murder therein. Boisselle moved to suppress the
evidence, arguing that the officers' warrantless search
was unlawful under article I, section 7 of the Washington
Constitution. The trial court denied Boisselle's motion,
concluding that the officers' search fell within the
emergency aid function of the community caretaking exception
to the warrant requirement. Following a jury trial, Boisselle
was convicted of second degree murder and second degree
unlawful possession of a firearm. The Court of Appeals
affirmed his convictions.
that the officers' warrantless search of Boisselle's
home was a pretext for a criminal investigation because the
officers had significant suspicions of criminal activity, the
officers' entry was motivated by the desire to conduct an
evidentiary search, and there was no present emergency.
Accordingly, the search did not fall within the emergency aid
function of the community caretaking exception to the warrant
requirement and thus violated article I, section 7.
Therefore, the trial court's findings of fact do not
support its conclusions of law and the trial court erred in
denying Boisselle's motion to suppress. We reverse the
Court of Appeals and remand to the trial court for further
August 13, 2014, a passerby notified law enforcement of a man
fleeing the scene of a roadside fire. Auburn Police Detective
Douglas Faini responded to the fire and located a pile of
charred, bloodied debris, including carpet, carpet padding,
laminate flooring, a towel, and a spent bullet casing. Due to
the amount of blood on the items, Detective Faini
"feared . . . that someone could be either seriously
injured on the side somewhere, or deceased" and
initiated a missing person/homicide investigation. 4 Verbatim
Report of Proceedings (VRP) at 613. Detective Faini sent the
items to the crime lab for DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)
testing, which rendered a match to Brandon Zomalt. Later in
his investigation, Detective Faini identified Boisselle as a
p.m. on September 1, South Sound 911 received an anonymous
call regarding a possible homicide at a duplex unit in
Puyallup. The anonymous caller reported that a friend named
Mike said that he had shot and possibly killed someone at the
duplex unit in self-defense. Soon after, the Puyallup Police
Department's tip line received a similar anonymous call
reporting a possible dead body in the unit.
enforcement was subsequently dispatched to the duplex unit.
Pierce County Sheriffs Deputies Ryan Olivarez and Fredrick
Wiggins responded to the residence at approximately 6:50 p.m.
Both Deputies Olivarez and Wiggins knocked on the front door
of the unit multiple times, but they did not receive a
response. The deputies proceeded to walk around the duplex
and heard a dog barking aggressively inside the unit as they
approached. The deputies could not see inside the unit as the
lights were off and the blinds and curtains were drawn
County Sheriffs Sergeant Christopher Adamson arrived at the
duplex unit around 7:13 p.m. Sergeant Erik Clarkson arrived
soon after. Due to the nature of the anonymous phone calls,
both Sergeants Adamson and Clarkson "wanted to confirm,
as best [they] could, that there may or may not have been a
crime, or there may or may not have been a victim." 1
VRP at 89. While walking around the unit, Sergeant Clarkson
noted a foul odor emanating from the garage. He believed the
smell was either rotting garbage or a decomposing body.
Sergeants Adamson and Clarkson approached a sliding glass
door at the rear of the duplex unit, the dog inside came up
to the door and pushed aside the blinds covering the door,
allowing the sergeants to see inside the unit. Sergeant
Clarkson saw furniture overturned in the living room of the
unit and signs of a struggle. Sergeant Adamson also noted
that carpet in the living room had been ripped out, which
"is never a good sign in police work. It's something
that's sometimes used to cover up a crime scene." 1
VRP at 31. Sergeant Clarkson determined "[i]t's a
very suspicious welfare check at this point" and called
animal control to secure the dog inside the unit in case he
and Sergeant Adamson decided to enter the home. Id.
deputies and Sergeant Adamson began contacting neighbors to
obtain more information. Neighbors stated that a man named
Mike lived in the duplex unit and that although there was
usually heavy traffic in and out of the unit, they had not
seen anyone in the last four or five days. The officers
determined that the duplex unit was Boisselle's last
Clarkson then noticed a man across the street taking
particular interest in law enforcement's activities.
Sergeant Clarkson approached the man, who identified himself
as Christopher Williamson. Williamson stated that his friend
Zomalt lived in the duplex with Boisselle and that he had not
seen Zomalt in several weeks. Williamson also mentioned that
Zomalt was associated with a missing person investigation in
Auburn and asked if the officers "had details [on the]
location of [Zomalt's] body." Def.'s Ex. 12.
approximately 8:00 p.m., there was a phone call between
Sergeant Clarkson and Detective Faini. It is unclear from
this court's record who made initial contact with whom,
and the exact content of the phone call is not part of this
court's record. During the call, Detective Faini informed
Sergeant Clarkson of the roadside fire and the missing
person/homicide investigation concerning Zomalt. Detective
Faini also stated that he would be interested to know whether
any carpet was missing from the duplex unit. Shortly after, a
second phone call between Sergeant Clarkson and Detective
Faini took place; the record is silent as to what was
discussed during this second call.
Sergeants Adamson and Clarkson decided to enter the unit and
conduct a warrantless search, believing the emergency aid
function of the community caretaking exception to the warrant
requirement justified entry. Sergeant Adamson noted that he
had "suspicion of a crime." 1 VRP at 95. Sergeant
Dealing with a suspicious welfare check and possibly someone
that's down inside, has been hurt or dead, we don't
know. So at that point I'm thinking the bottom line is
you can't walk away from this. You have got a duty to do
. . . There's too much information to say that . . .
something possibly happened inside. With what we . . .
observed, the information I received from Detective Faini,
the two anonymous tips, you can't just walk away from
something like that.
1 VRP at 45-46. Law enforcement and animal control entered
the duplex unit at 8:20 p.m. The officers located
Zomalt's body in the garage of the unit and later secured
a warrant to search the remainder of the home.
State charged Boisselle with first degree murder or, in the
alternative, second degree murder, and second degree unlawful
possession of a firearm. Prior to trial, Boisselle moved to
suppress evidence obtained as a result of the warrantless
search of his home. Boisselle argued that the officers'
warrantless search did not fall within the emergency aid
function because the officers did not subjectively believe
that someone was inside the home needing assistance for
health and safety reasons.
trial court denied Boisselle's motion to suppress and
issued findings of fact and conclusions of law. The trial
court ultimately concluded that the officers' entry into
Boisselle's home fell within the community caretaking
exception because the officers subjectively believed that
either Zomalt or Boisselle "could be dead or injured and
therefore require assistance for health or safety
reasons." Clerk's Papers (CP) at 362. The trial
court also concluded that the officers were not motivated to
enter the unit to investigate a potential crime and that
their entry was not a pretext for conducting an evidentiary
a jury trial, Boisselle was convicted of second degree murder
and second degree unlawful possession of a firearm. Boisselle
appealed his convictions, arguing that the trial court erred
in denying his motion to suppress because the officers'
search of his home did not fall within the emergency aid
function of the community caretaking exception under either
article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution or the
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. State
v. Boisselle, 3 Wn.App. 2d 266, 276-77, 415 P.3d 621
(2018). The Court of Appeals affirmed Boisselle's
convictions, holding that the officers' search was
permissible because they had a reasonable belief that someone
inside the duplex unit likely needed aid or assistance.
Id. at 287. The court declined to address
Boisselle's Fourth Amendment argument, reasoning that
Boisselle did not provide adequate briefing to resolve the
issue. Id. at 277 n.6. Boisselle petitioned this
court for review, which this court granted. State v.
Boisselle, 191 Wn.2d 1004 (2018).
test does this court employ to determine whether an officer
exercised his or her emergency aid community caretaking
function when conducting a warrantless search?
the officers' warrantless search of Boisselle's home
violate article I, section 7 because the search did not fall
within the emergency aid function of the community caretaking
exception to the warrant requirement?
Should this court adopt a new rule permitting law enforcement
officers to make warrantless searches of homes under the
community caretaking exception in order to recover
argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to
suppress evidence obtained as a result of law enforcement
officers' warrantless search of his home because the
officers' search did not fall within the emergency aid
function of the community caretaking exception to the warrant
requirement. We hold that the officers' warrantless
search of Boisselle's home was a pretext for a criminal
investigation because the officers had significant suspicions
of criminal activity, the officers' entry was motivated
by the desire to conduct an evidentiary search, and there was
no present emergency. As a result, the officers' search
did not fall within the emergency aid function of the
community caretaking exception, and it violated article I,
section 7. Therefore, the trial court's findings of fact
do not support its conclusions of law and the trial court
erred in denying Boisselle's motion to suppress.
Application of the Community Caretaking Exception
initial matter, Boisselle contends that this court's
jurisprudence concerning the community caretaking exception
generally, and the emergency aid function specifically, is
convoluted and unclear. We agree that the application of the
community caretaking exception has become muddled, and we
take this opportunity to clarify the appropriate factors in
determining whether an officer has exercised his or her
emergency aid community caretaking function.
I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution provides that
"[n]o person shall be disturbed in his private affairs,
or his home invaded, without authority of law." Under
this provision, warrantless searches are per se unreasonable.
State v. Bravo Ortega, 177 Wn.2d 116, 122, 297 P.3d
57 (2013). However, there are a few "carefully drawn and
jealously guarded exceptions to the warrant
requirement." Id. The State bears a heavy
burden in showing that a warrantless search falls within one
of these exceptions. Id.
community caretaking exception is one such exception to the
warrant requirement. State v. Thompson, 151 Wn.2d
793, 802, 92 P.3d 228 (2004). Under the community caretaking
exception, law enforcement officers may make a limited
invasion of constitutionally protected privacy rights when it
is necessary for officers to perform their community
caretaking functions. Id. This exception recognizes
that law enforcement officers are "jacks of all
trades" and frequently engage in community caretaking
functions that are unrelated to the detection and
investigation of crime, '"including delivering
emergency messages, giving directions, searching for lost
children, assisting stranded motorists, and rendering first
aid.'" State v. Kinzy, 141 Wn.2d 373, 387,
5 P.3d 668 (2000) (quoting Hudson v. City of
Wenatchee, 94 Wn.App. 990, 996, 974 P.2d 342 (1999)).
United States Supreme Court first announced the community
caretaking exception in Cady v. Dombrowski, 413 U.S.
433, 441, 93 S.Ct. 2523, 37 L.Ed.2d 706 (1973). In
Cady, an off-duty law enforcement officer from
Chicago was arrested in Wisconsin for driving while
intoxicated. Id. at 436. Local law enforcement
believed that Chicago officers were required to carry a
service revolver at all times, but they did not locate a
revolver on the Chicago officer's body. Id. In
an effort to protect the public and to locate the revolver,
local law enforcement conducted a warrantless search of the
Chicago officer's vehicle and found the revolver, as well
as evidence linking the Chicago officer to a murder.
Id. at 436-38. The United States Supreme Court
determined that the warrantless search of the vehicle was
reasonable under the Fourth Amendment because the officers
were engaged in their community caretaking functions and were
not investigating a crime. Id. at 441. The Court
Local police officers ... frequently investigate vehicle
accidents in which there is no claim of criminal liability
and engage in what, for want of a better term, may be
described as community caretaking functions, totally divorced
from the detection, investigation, or ...