Stephanie Bongiovi, Jon Bon Jovi’s daughter, overdosed on heroin early Wednesday at her college in upper New York State. Medical personnel were called to her dorm room. When medical authorities arrived, they were told that she had used heroin and was unresponsive. She was taken to the hospital, and her room was searched. Police charged her with heroin, marijuana and drug paraphenalia possession.

How can police search the scene of a call for paramedics?

In Colorado, as well as in most places, the “medical emergency exception” to the rule against warrantless searches allows police to search an unresponsive person, their wallet or purse. Why? Police and medical officials need to be able to determine the patient’s identity, and to figure out what put them in that “unresponsive” condition.

What facts allowed police to search Stephanie Bongiovi’s room?

So, in Stephanie’s case, they knew who she was, and that she had heroin. What facts gave police permission to search her room? A smart prosecutor would argue that the heroin needed to be seized and tested to help determine how serious her overdose was. Also, no one would want to leave the dorm room knowing that heroin was in her room.

The medical emergency exception only applies to unresponsive people, and Colorado case law disapproves the taking of purses or wallets from people in hospitals, emergency rooms and ambulances.

A sad side story around all of this is that the musical group Bon Jovi has performed live, and raised money for, drug and alcohol centers around the country, including in Colorado.

Contact Shaun Kaufman Law

If you face criminal charges in Colorado, contact Denver-based criminal defense attorney Shaun Kaufman.  Shaun Kaufman Law offers free initial consultations and provides same-day appointments and immediate jail visits. Contact  Shaun Kaufman Law at  303-309-0430, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or fill out the contact form on the right side of this page.