Supreme Court limits when police can enter home without warrant

Ruben Hill
Июня 23, 2021

Police do not have unlimited authority to enter a home without a warrant when pursuing a person suspected of a minor crime, the US Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in a case involving a California motorist chased home by an officer for honking his horn while listening to music.

The case the justices decided Wednesday is important both to law enforcement and to groups concerned about privacy.

"When the totality of circumstances shows an emergency-a need to act before it is possible to get a warrant-the police may act without waiting", Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the majority opinion.

In this case, a California Highway Patrol officer chose to follow Arthur Lange because he was playing loud music on his vehicle radio. The justices were unanimous in the result but differed on the reasoning.

Lange argued that the officer's entry into the garage without a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free of "unreasonable searches and seizures". Protests erupted in many cities past year against police brutality and racism.

Prosecutors argued that because Lange failed to stop when the police auto flashed its lights, the officer was justified in pursuing him into his garage. He drew the attention of a CHP officer who began following him. Lange was already in his driveway when the officer caught up with him and activated his emergency lights. Lower courts ruled against Lange, deeming the incident a "hot pursuit" that allowed a warrantless entry. He had no warrant to enter the home, but once inside, he said he smelled liquor on Lange's breath and arrested him, not only for the noise violation, but for driving under the influence. Lange pleaded no contest to the DUI offense and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years of probation.

She added: "Because the California Court of Appeal applied the categorical rule we reject today, we vacate its judgment and remand the case for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion".

The U.S. Supreme court ruled Wednesday that police can not enter a home without a warrant when pursuing someone for a minor crime.

Usually police may not enter private property unless they have a warrant or are responding to an emergency, including a so-called hot pursuit of a fleeing felon.

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