How Far Does ‘Hot Pursuit’ Go? Justices Uncertain

While the Supreme Court has decided that a police officer does not need a warrant to enter someone’s home while in pursuit of a fleeing felon, justices appear conflicted over whether the decision should allow officers the same access for petty crimes, reports the New York Times. The debate began around a case concerning Arthur Lange, a California man who was pursued by a police officer after driving with the windows down, playing loud music, and honking his horn at random. As Lange pulled into his driveway and garage, the officer flashed his lights and then stopped the garage door from lowering with his foot, forced it open, and confronted Lange, who appeared intoxicated. A blood test later showed that his blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit and Lange was charged with driving under the influence, a misdemeanor, and playing music too loudly, an infraction. He moved to suppress the evidence against him, arguing that Officer Weikert’s entry into his home had violated the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

When the case reached the Supreme Court,  several justices said that line separating felonies from misdemeanors was a murky one that varied by state and did not reflect the risks to police officers. Justice Elena Kagan said that labeling a crime a felony or a misdemeanor says little about whether the suspect was dangerous. Most domestic violence offenses are misdemeanors, she said, while most white-collar frauds are felonies. Justice Breyer said the case may not present a “cruel trilemma” after all and that a fourth option was to “almost always” allow warrantless entries in hot pursuit but to leave open the possibility that some intrusions are unreasonable.

via The Crime Report

February 25, 2021 at 10:15AM