Supreme Court puts limits on warrantless searches
The Supreme Court unanimously overturned a lower court ruling and struck a blow against warrantless police searches in the case Lange v. California.
As Scotusblog’s Amy Howe writes:
…Arthur Lange, a California man convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. In 2016, Lange was returning to his home in Sonoma when a police officer began to follow Lange’s car. The officer, Aaron Weikert, later testified that he wanted to stop Lange because he was “playing music very loudly” and honked his horn several times even though there weren’t any cars in front of him.
Shortly before Lange pulled into his driveway, Weikert turned on his overhead lights. But Lange – who later said that he had not seen Weikert – continued into his garage and began to close the door. Weikert, who had quickly parked in the driveway, followed Lange into the garage. Once there, Weikert said, he smelled alcohol. Lange was taken to a hospital, where testing determined his blood-alcohol level to be 0.245% — more than three times the legal limit.
Lange contested his conviction, arguing that Weikert violated the Fourth Amendment when he entered the garage without a warrant. But a California appeals court rejected that argument. It ruled that Weikert had probable cause to arrest Lange when he pulled into the driveway and then entered the garage after Weikert turned on his lights. Weikert’s “hot pursuit” of Lange therefore justified his entry into Lange’s garage, even without a warrant.
The Supreme Court disagreed. Writing for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan said not every hot pursuit is the same and not every circumstance means officers can avoid getting a warrant. If time allows, they should follow the Fourth Amendment and get a warrant…even if doing so means a suspect gets away.