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Can the police enter your home when they’re pursuing you for a minor offense?

On Behalf of | Jun 29, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Just how absolute is your right against the warrantless intrusion of your home by the authorities? Broader than you may realize.

The police generally have the right to enter a home when they’re in “hot pursuit” of a suspect or “exigent circumstances” make them believe that there’s an emergency situation that leaves them no other choice. However, a new decision by the United States Supreme Court has sharply clarified a few limits.

U.S. Supreme Court issues opinion on minor offenses and warrantless entries

At issue was a 2016 incident where a police officer pursued a motorist down a dark and lonely road because the driver was playing his music too loudly and had honked his horn a few times. The officer intended to issue a citation for breaking a local noise ordinance.

The driver didn’t notice the officer behind him, and pulled into his own driveway and garage without stopping mere seconds after the officer flicked on the lights of his patrol car. Not to be thwarted, the officer got out of his cruiser and stuck his foot under the suspect’s garage door to stop it from closing. He then freely entered the suspect’s garage.

Once inside, the officer claims he detected the odor of alcohol on the driver’s breath, so he arrested the suspect for both drunk driving and the noise violation.

The driver argued that the officer’s actions amounted to a violation of his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures — and the court agreed. In essence, the court said that a minor crime — like a noise offense — does not have enough weight to allow the police to enter someone’s home (or garage) without a warrant.

Were your rights were violated during an arrest?

The law is constantly adjusting and changing based on court rulings and other factors. If you believe that your rights were violated during an arrest, that could have significant consequences for your case. Make sure that you discuss all angles of your situation carefully as you proceed with your defense.