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Hot pursuit and warrants: What you should know about your rights

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2022 | Warrants

When a law enforcement officer enters your home without a warrant, exigent circumstances must exist.

In 2021 the Supreme Court ruled to grant police less leeway when it comes to entering residences without warrants if in pursuit of someone they believe committed a misdemeanor. In this case, a police officer stopped a civilian from closing his garage and then entered the premises without a warrant. This resulted in the filing of charges against the defendant for driving under the influence and a traffic infraction.

What are exigent circumstances?

Exigent circumstances are those that would make a reasonable person believe warrantless entry is necessary in order for a law enforcement officer to prevent:

  • the escape of a suspect
  • physical harm to an officer or civilian
  • destruction of evidence relevant to the current crime
  • other potential consequences

What does the recent ruling mean?

The Supreme Court justices ruled that only in exigent circumstances can police enter a person’s home when pursuing them for a minor infraction. However, it is still true that many cases of offenders fleeing a scene implicate a valid exigent circumstance.

Justice Kagan wrote that the Court is not eager to permit law enforcement to enter homes without a warrant. The justice also wrote that many misdemeanor pursuits involve exigent circumstances which allow warrantless entry but that it depends upon the particular facts of a case.

There are still some circumstances that allow officers of the law to enter someone’s home without a warrant. However, when pursuing a person for a minor crime each case differs and police must use reason in order to do so.