The Court continued: One recognized exception to the warrant requirement is the presence of exigent circumstances. To invoke that exception, the State must show that the officers had probable cause and faced an objective exigency, of which police safety and the preservation of evidence remain the preeminent determinants. For a “hot pursuit” to justify an exception to the warrant requirement, officers must have had probable cause and have been in immediate or continuous pursuit of the suspect from the scene of the crime. Because the “hot pursuit” doctrine is a subset of the exigent-circumstances exception, the touchstones that would justify a warrantless entry remain the possible destruction of evidence and the threat of violence by the suspect. In State v. Bolte, hot pursuit could not justify the police entry when the defendant was unarmed and the police had no reason to believe he posed a danger or would destroy evidence—a justification usually reserved for narcotics cases. 115 N.J. 579, 593-94 (1989).
Here, the Court does not need to consider whether the officer’s pursuit of defendant, facilitated by his use of the Find My iPhone application, falls within the purview of the hot pursuit doctrine because the doctrine does not apply for other reasons. The State failed to prove that the police had any basis to believe defendant would injure anyone inside the house or the officers themselves, so that waiting to obtain a warrant would have been unreasonable. Likewise, the State did not show that the officers had any reason to believe that defendant would (or could) destroy the phone. Neither exigency nor the hot pursuit doctrine justified the officers’ warrantless entry here.
The Court’s analysis highlights the importance of having a trial attorney with appellate practice experience. The likely reason that the State failed to lay the foundation for a finding of “hot pursuit” is the prosecutor’s failure to ask the right questions at the suppression hearing.