the legal authority and permission to enter a property for the purposes of conducting a fire investigation. There are four methods used to obtain the right of entry: exigent circumstance, consent, administrative search warrant, and criminal search warrant. These methods may also be used in combination over the course of an investigation. Exigent circumstance is extended to a reasonable timeframe to extinguish a fire and determine its origin and cause. Courts have held that this circumstance is in the interest of the public good. However, exigent circumstance does not extend forever. Michigan v. Tyler established that exigent circumstance exists for "a reasonable period of time." If the investigator is not sure what a "reasonable time" is, then another method of right of entry should be secured. Consent to conduct and investigation can be given by the person in lawful control of the property. Consent should be documented with the appropriate signed waiver or form. Administrative search warrant to investigate a fire's origin and cause can be obtained from a court with jurisdiction upon a showing that consent has not been granted or has been denied. "Probable cause" showing is not required, but the search must be "reasonable." A "valid public interest" that justifies the search must be established. The scope of the administrative search warrant is limited to fire cause and origin. If evidence of a crime is discovered, a criminal search warrant must be obtained before the investigation can proceed. A criminal search warrant allows entry to search for and collect evidence of a crime. Probable cause that a crime has been committed must be shown.
For more information on this term, see the interFIRE VR Resource File articles: Documentation of the Fire Scene: A Legal Perspective, NFPA 921 Sections 5-1, 5-2.1, and 5-2.2 - Legal Considerations: Introduction, Authority to Conduct the Investigation, and Right of Entry
, and Consent to Search and Seizure