How much right do the police have to follow you into your home if they’re pursuing you over something minor — like a misdemeanor traffic offense or another low-level crime?
None at all, according to the U.S. Supreme Court.
What the U.S. Supreme Court has to say about warrantless intrusions
At issue before the court was a case involving a California man who crossed paths late at night with an officer of the law on an otherwise deserted two-lane highway.
According to the police officer, the driver was playing his music far too loud, so the officer pursued him for violating a local noise ordinance — all the way to the driver’s garage. (For his part, the driver said he didn’t even notice the officer until the policeman put his foot under the garage door to prevent it from closing.)
Once inside the garage, the officer claimed he smelled alcohol on the suspect’s breath and arrested him both for drunk driving and violating the noise ordinance.
The driver appealed on the basis that the officer essentially conducted a warrantless search of his home and violated his Fourth Amendment rights — and the court agreed.
Police officers can generally enter a home and conduct a search without a warrant when they must act to prevent someone’s immediate harm, a suspect’s escape or the destruction of evidence. However, the Supreme Court says that the intrusion was indeed unwarranted and illegal. When the suspect is only suspected of a minor offense, the police have no right to burst into his home without a warrant.
When you’ve been charged with a crime, details matter
Every criminal case is unique, but this is one more example of how important the details of your situation can be to your defense.
If you’ve been charged with a crime, make sure you discuss everything about the situation with your defense counsel. Protecting your future starts with a clear understanding of the circumstances of your arrest.