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Can Police Enter Your Home In Pursuit Of A Misdemeanor Crime? The Supreme Court Will Decide

 Posted on November 05, 2020 in DUI

Tucson criminal defense lawyerCalifornia resident Arthur Lange was driving home one day in 2016 when he caught the attention of a California highway patrol officer, who pursued him with the intention of giving a citation for playing music loudly and honking his car horn.

Instead of conducting a regular traffic stop, the officer followed Lange to his home where Lange parked his car in the garage and headed for the door. Without getting a search warrant or consent to enter the residence, the officer entered Lange’s garage by putting his foot under the garage door to block it from closing.

Upon talking to Lange, the officer believed he could smell alcohol on his breath and charged Lange with a DUI. In court, Lange argued that the officer’s entry into his garage without a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment right to be protected against unreasonable searches and seizures.  When the police seize evidence illegally, the exclusionary rule usually operates to bar the government from using that evidence at trial

Because the officer entered Lange’s home without a warrant, Lange said the evidence obtained from that unlawful entry should be thrown out. The trial court rejected this argument, as did the California Court of Appeals. The appellate court upheld Lange’s conviction, and concluded that “the warrantless entry did not violate the Constitution because the officer was in “hot pursuit” of Lange, whom he had probable cause to arrest for a misdemeanor.”

Police officers do have the ability to enter private property without a warrant if they are in “hot pursuit” of a crime suspect, although it is supposed to be used only in emergency cases.

An emergency situation is lacking in Lange’s case—there was no immediate threat to public safety, and the patrol officer had the time to obtain a warrant before entering Lange’s private residence. But the California courts didn’t see it this way. So Lange took his case to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that his case’s ruling sets precedent to allow “officers investigating trivial offenses to invade the privacy of all occupants of a home even when no emergency prevents them from seeking a warrant.”  The High Court agreed to review his case, which is expected to be scheduled for argument as soon as February 2021.

The winning team of attorneys at The Behan Law Group have successfully suppressed illegally seized evidence in courtrooms throughout Pima County and beyond.  We know firsthand how often the police overstep the bounds of the Constitution, and we fight hard to protect the rights of Arizona citizens charged with DUIs and other crimes.  If you or a loved one is charged with a crime, contact The Behan Law Group at 520-220-5047 for a free consultation.  Call us and let Miss DUI Arizona fight for you, too!

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