The Supreme Court has unanimously decided that there are limits to the ability of police to cite “hot pursuit” in entering private homes. About damn time. Excerpt:
Police do not have unlimited authority to enter a home without a warrant when pursuing a person suspected of a minor crime, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in a case involving a California motorist chased home by an officer for honking his horn while listening to music.
By declining to endorse a broad interpretation of police power, the justices handed a victory to the driver, Arthur Lange, who is challenging his conviction of driving under the influence after the California highway patrol officer entered his garage without a warrant and performed a sobriety test.
The court, in a 9-0 decision authored by liberal Justice Elena Kagan, sent the case back to the California Court of Appeals. The justices rejected the lower court’s finding that warrants are not required in any situation in which police are in pursuit, even if the suspected crime is minor.
“The flight of a suspected misdemeanant does not always justify a warrantless entry into a home,” Kagan wrote.
While this is a good finding, it’s just a first step on a long list of things I wish the Court would take up. Asset forfeiture, for example.
Still, it’s movement in the right direction. Absent a warrant or some violent felony in progress, the police shouldn’t have the power to invade a citizen’s home, or else the very idea of private property rights are gone. The Fourth Amendment is very clear (emphasis added by me):
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Arthur Lange should never have been pursued into his garage. We should not have to worry about police pursuing us into our homes over misdemeanor infractions. The Court, for once, did something right, and did it unanimously.