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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Around 10 p.m. on July 27, 2005, Border Patrol Agent Josue Castillo witnessed a vehicle dropping off several individuals at a location known to be used by alien smugglers. Castillo radioed for help and was joined by numerous agents 30 minutes later, including Francisco Javier Villarreal, Richard Maldonado, Hector Lira, Marco Lara and Donald Buyer. All of the agents were members of the Border Patrol’s Special Response Team. As members of the SRT, the agents had received specialized training in tactical tracking, building entry, arrest techniques and rescues. In addition to their law enforcement duties, one goal of SRT agents was to locate and aid aliens in order to prevent them from dying from dehydration or exposure in the summer heat. After arriving at the dropoff location, the agents found the footprints of five individuals that they believed were illegal aliens and began to track them. After the agents had tracked the individuals for some time, the suspected aliens had set off a hidden Border Patrol sensor, which led the agents to believe that they were only 20 minutes behind the suspected aliens. The suspected aliens followed a path known to be used frequently by illegal aliens to avoid a nearby checkpoint. The agents followed the tracks for about four or five miles and arrived at the town of Bruni after midnight. Villarreal testified that as the tracks drew near to Bruni, the footprints became more scuffed and had less pronounced toe indentations than at first, which indicated that the individuals were fatigued. Villarreal also testified that the temperature that night was in the 90s. The agents continued to follow the tracks to a house, later discovered to be Jerry Ernest Troop’s house. The house was surrounded by a barbed wire fence with a gate in it. At the time the agents arrived, the gate was open, leaving a 14-foot gap in the fence. The tracks led through the gate and into the house through what the agents believed was the back door. Villarreal passed through the gate and approached the door. He knocked and announced himself as a Border Patrol agent several times, but no one inside the house responded. Buyer and Miranda went to the front of the house, knocked on that door, and announced, “Open up, Border Patrol.” Again, they received no response. Agents Lira and Lara then walked around the north side of the house to see if the suspects had left the house and to keep any suspects from leaving. There, they came upon a window to a bedroom. By shining his flashlight through the window, Lira saw two men lying on a bed, apparently asleep and fully dressed. There was conflicting testimony as to whether the bedroom window was open, with the agents claiming that it was, and Luis Ernesto Yanez-Duranzo, one of the men on the bed, asserting that it was closed. The district court did not resolve this issue at the suppression hearing. Lira and Lara shouted, “Wake up, Border Patrol” at the men but received no response. Lira testified that he then reached through the window and grabbed the foot of one of the men on the bed and shook it. The man did not respond. Lara, however, testified that the bed was six feet away from the window, which would make Lira’s statement implausible. Duranzo also said that no one shook his legs or the legs of the other man on the bed. The district court did not resolve this issue either. Lira decided to enter the house to make sure the men were all right. Lira and Lara climbed through the bedroom window. Upon entry, Lira and Lara found two other men lying on the floor in addition to the two on the bed. None of the men needed any medical assistance. Lira and Lara then let the other agents into the house. The agents arrested the illegal aliens and Troop, who was sleeping in another room. On Aug. 16, 2005, the government charged Troop with conspiring to transport an alien in violation of 8 U.S.C. �1324. Troop filed a motion to suppress on Sept. 6, 2005, arguing that the agents’ warrantless search of the curtilage of his house and entry into his house violated the Fourth Amendment. The district court initially denied the motion but following a motion to reconsider held a suppression hearing on Oct. 21 and 24, 2005. The district court then entered a written order denying the motion, reasoning that the possibility that the suspected aliens were in need of medical attention created exigent circumstances sufficient to justify the warrantless entry into Troop’s house. The district court tried Troop on stipulated facts, found him guilty, sentenced him to 20 months in prison to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release and imposed a $500 fine and a $100 special assessment. Troop appealed the district court’s ruling on his motion to suppress. HOLDING:Vacated and remanded. It is well established, the court stated, that “[w]arrantless searches of a person’s home are presumptively unreasonable unless the person consents, or unless probable cause and exigent circumstances justify the search. The need to assist persons who are seriously injured or threatened with such injury, the court stated, is an exigency that obviates the need for a warrant. The government argues that exigent circumstances existed, because the suspected aliens might have needed immediate medical attention. The government pointed to the high temperatures that night, the evidence that the suspected aliens were fatigued, and the failure of anyone inside Troop’s house to respond when the agents knocked on the door and window. After review of the evidence, the court did not agree that the evidence permitted a finding of exigent circumstances. The government’s heat fatigue argument, the court stated, is insufficient on its own to demonstrate exigent circumstances, because such a rationale would permit warrantless entries into homes in which an occupant had recently taken a long walk in the Texas summer and become tired as a result. Absent any medical evidence, the court deemed it unreasonable for the agents to conclude that the suspected aliens likely needed immediate aid based solely on the fact that the aliens showed fatigue. Consequently, the court found no exigent circumstances that permitted the warrantless entry into Troop’s house, holding that the district court erred in concluding otherwise. OPINION:Prado, J.; Jolly, Higginbotham and Prado, JJ.

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