Police officers in Louisiana and around the country must usually obtain search warrants before they can enter a suspect’s home without permission, but the courts have allowed police to act without warrants in situations where exigent circumstances exist. The exigent circumstances exemption has been applied when police officers acted to protect themselves or members of the public, answer calls for help, prevent evidence of criminal activity from being destroyed and pursue fleeing suspects.
On June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case dealing with the exigent circumstances exception. The case involves a California man who was arrested for drunk driving after a police officer pulled into his driveway and entered his garage without a warrant. The officer claims that he activated his vehicle’s lights before the man pulled into his driveway because the man was playing loud music.
Supreme Court ruling
The man was convicted of drunk driving, and his criminal law attorney filed an appeal. The appeals court ruled that the officer had probable cause to arrest the man and was in hot pursuit when he entered the garage. The Supreme Court disagreed. By a majority vote, the justices determined that pursuing a suspected drunk driver into a private residence does not meet the exigent circumstances standard. Writing for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan said that the police officer involved had time to obtain a search warrant.
If you are ever charged with a crime after a police officer conducted a search or entered a property without a warrant, an experienced criminal defense attorney may advise you to remain silent. If the facts suggest that your rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment were violated, the charges against you might be dismissed.