Supreme Court overturns California ruling allowing police to following fleeing suspect into home

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled on Wednesday that police are not allowed to enter the residence of a fleeing suspect of a minor offense, according to The Hill

A unanimous ruling was handed down with all nine justices agreeing to adopt the legal test that weighs circumstances of warrantless searches to determine the legality under the Fourth Amendment. 

“The question presented here is whether the pursuit of a fleeing misdemeanor suspect always — or more legally put, categorically — qualifies as an exigent circumstance. We hold it does not,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan.

“A great many misdemeanor pursuits involve exigencies allowing warrantless entry. But whether a given one does so turns on the particular facts of the case.”

The justices overturned a California court ruling that came from a 2016 case where Sonoma, Calif motorist Arthur Lange was spotted by officer Aaron Weikert leaving a station wagon with the windows rolled down and loud music playing and even honking several times without an apparent reason. 

Weikert entered the suspect’s garage without a search warrant after following him with the intent to pull him over for a noise infraction. While Weikert did activate his squad car’s lights, Lange reportedly did not see the officer and parked his garage, and began to close the door. 

The officer got out of his patrol car and put his foot under the lowering door, forcing it open before entering the garage. He subsequently smelled alcohol on the driver and conducted a sobriety test. 

“Lange’s blood-alcohol level was found to be more than three times the legal limit. He was charged with driving under the influence and his license was suspended,” The Hill reported. 

However, Lage filed a suit to request that the DUI be dismissed arguing that the officer’s entry into his garage without a search warrant violated his Fourth Amendment rights.