A regular question I get asked is how do police gain entry to a home where a dead body might be. Typically they are crafting a narrative that involves a murder in the victim’s own home.
As police officers, we often get called to “check the welfare” calls. These are calls where a concerned citizen feels someone could be in trouble inside their own home. These calls often come from family members, co-workers or neighbors.
- The reason people call can be varied. Some of the calls I have taken include
- Adult child who always phones home on a specific day, and is two days late in calling
- Multiple days of newspapers on the front porch
- Mail delivery issues because the mailbox was full
- Co-workers concerned someone missed work and did not answer phone
- Dog outside on the leash all day
- Lawn and garden have not been cared for
- Outside Christmas lights left on for multiple days
- Odd smell in the hallway of an apartment
- Late on rent payment
- Person active on social media and has not posted in multiple days
- Tash and recycling bins left at curb two days after garbage pick up day
- Business owner who has not opened up on time
Regardless of the reason for the call an officer will respond to the home and ring the doorbell. Sometimes standing on the porch you can smell the dead body odor. If there is not smell and no one answers most officers will take a walk around the house. Window peeping is typically taboo but on a check welfare call, officers will do it. When looking in windows officers might see the body, blood, bugs, overturned furniture, or spoiled food from an uneaten meal.
Once an officer has seen or smelled enough, it is safe to say they have Exigent Circumstance to make entry to the home. Exigent circumstance is legal terminology for an emergency situation. Is that person actually dead or are they hurt and in need of medical aid?
Once inside and it is known the victim is beyond help many jurisdictions would say to secure the scene and wait for a warrant before moving any possible evidence.