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Warrants and the “hot pursuit” exception

On Behalf of | Jul 16, 2021 | Criminal Defense

When someone is charged with a crime, it is very important to know all the details of  how police and prosecution obtained evidence against them. If the police violated the defendant’s constitutional rights when they searched the defendant, the evidence can be suppressed from court.

The Fourth Amendment protects the people from “unreasonable” search and arrest. Courts have long argued over the limits of what is reasonable or unreasonable, but they agree that the police must generally have a warrant before they can search a person’s home.

Of course, there are exceptions to the warrant requirement. One of the most important of these is known as the “hot pursuit” exception. This comes into play when police discover probable evidence of a crime while they are chasing a suspect in some sort of emergency situation. For instance, if police chase a violent crime suspect into a home, where they see probable evidence of drug crimes, they do not need to get a warrant to search the premises for illegal drugs.

Recent Supreme Court decision

In a recent case, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed this protection. The case involved a man who was playing music loudly and honking the horn of his car as he drove. A police officer followed the man home, and into the man’s garage. Upon entering the man’s property, the officer smelled alcohol on his breath and arrested him.

The officer did not have a warrant to enter the man’s home, but a lower court ruled that the search was justified by the hot pursuit exception. The Supreme Court overruled that decision. It said the hot pursuit exception applies to emergency situations, such as when there appears to be a threat of imminent harm to others. It does not give police complete freedom from the warrant requirement when pursuing someone suspected of any crime.

Those who have been accused of a crime can speak to a skilled criminal defense lawyer about the circumstances of their arrest and how the authorities collected the evidence against them.