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On Behalf of | Jul 15, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Hot pursuit is an exception to law enforcement needing a warrant to enter a home to make an arrest in California.

The purpose of hot pursuit

If chasing a suspect connected to a recently-occurred felony and said suspect enters a private house, criminal law says officers can enter the home forcefully. The goal is to prevent the suspect from hiding, escaping, destroying evidence or worse.

Supreme Court reviews a case

The Supreme Court recently set a decision that puts limits on hot pursuit and warrant.

The courts have, in general, accepted most conditions in pursuit matters, leaving defendants trapped in the quagmire of criminal law.

The Supreme Court decision reevaluates pursuit not for felonies but minor crimes, including misdemeanors.

Technically, the police use warrantless entry if there isn’t time to get a warrant. The court determined that in certain conditions, law enforcement cannot use exigent circumstances to enter a home.

What the court said

In the decision, Justice Elena Kagan wrote, “When the totality of circumstances shows an emergency — such as imminent harm to others, a threat to the officer himself, destruction of evidence, or escape from the home — the police may act without waiting.

“But the need to pursue a misdemeanant does not trigger a categorical rule allowing home entry … officers must respect the sanctity of the home — which means that they must get a warrant.”

The Court repealed a lower court’s decision that upheld a warrantless pursuit arrest. The Supreme Court determined there were no exigent conditions that required law enforcement to act without a warrant.

The decision was driven by Lange v. California. In that matter, the plaintiff got arrested for a DUI after parking in their garage. The arresting officer used his foot to stop the garage door from closing.

The hot pursuit doctrine has been in play for over 50 years.

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