The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in favor of a California motorist who was followed home by police and then arrested in his garage for driving while intoxicated.
The driver challenged the arrest as an unconstitutional search of his home.
In a 9-0 decision, the court overturned a lower court ruling in favor of police and said the 4th Amendment in most cases does not allow police to enter a house unless they are ‘This is not an emergency or a mandate.
The case began in October 2016 when Arthur Lange, a retired real estate broker, was returning home to Sonoma County and listening to loud music. He caught the attention of a California Highway Patrol officer who began to follow him.
Seconds before Lange pulled into his driveway, the officer said he turned on the flashing lights on his patrol car. He followed the motorist to his garage and questioned him. The officer smelled alcohol on his breath and wrote Lange a ticket for impaired driving and for “using the audio system of a vehicle at excessive levels”.
In response, Lange said the charges should be dismissed because the officer violated the 4th Amendment ban on “unreasonable searches and seizures” when he entered his driveway and garage without a search warrant.
Usually, police cannot enter private property unless they have a warrant or respond to an emergency, including a so-called immediate pursuit of a fugitive criminal. But Lange’s crimes were crimes.
Prosecutors argued that because Lange did not stop when the police car turned on its lights, the officer was justified in chasing him into his garage.
A Superior Court judge and a California appeals court agreed. “Because the officer was chasing a suspect he had a probable cause of arrest, the officer’s warrantless entry into Lange’s driveway and garage was legal,” the officer said. state court.
But in her ruling, Judge Elena Kagan wrote: “The escape of a suspect suspect does not always justify a warrantless entry into a house. An officer must consider all of the circumstances in a prosecution case to determine whether there is a law enforcement emergency. On many occasions, the officer will have good reason to enter – to avoid imminent damage from violence, destruction of evidence, or escape from the home. But when the officer has time to get a warrant, he has to do it – even if the offense has fled.