Can Police Enter a Home When They are Chasing a Person for a Misdemeanor?
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 13 of the California Constitution protect against warrantless entry by police into a residence to seize a person, because this seizure is presumptively unreasonable and lawful absent exigent circumstances. However, exigent circumstances may arise when officers are responding to or investigating criminal activity, such as when they are in “hot pursuit” of a fleeing suspect. The suspect may not defeat an arrest set in motion in a public place by escaping to a private location. This is called the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment.
When Does the Exigent Circumstances Exception to the 4th Amendment Apply?
In People v. Lange, the police officer entered Mr. Lange’s garage after signaling to Mr. Lange that he should pull over by turning on their overhead lights and following Mr. Lange for approximately four seconds to his home. Mr. Lange contended that the police officer violated the Fourth Amendment by entering his garage because the officer did not detain Mr. Lange when activating his overhead lights. However, the court found the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment applied here because the suspect retreated to a private place in an attempt to thwart the arrest which had begun in a public setting.
Additionally, Mr. Lange argues that he did not believe that he was being pulled over or that the vehicle behind him was a police car until the officer forcibly entered his garage. However, the test for this is objective, meaning it does not matter whether or not Mr. Lange subjectively believed the vehicle behind him was a police car. Rather, the focus should be on whether a reasonable person in Mr. Lange’s position would recognize that they were being pulled over and stop accordingly. In Mr. Lange’s case, there were no other cars on the street when the officer pulled up directly behind him and activated his emergency lights that consisted of four red lights and a bright white light that switches between blue and red. A reasonable person in Mr. Lange’s position would have known to pull over. However, Mr. Lange evaded to his private home where the police had the right to detain him per the exigent circumstances exception.
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Here at Wallin & Klarich, our criminal defense team will be there to answer your questions regarding whether your search or seizure was lawful under the law. Our attorneys are trained to see and view all angles in assessing a situation to ensure that your constitutional rights are protected. If you think you have been wrongfully accused of committing a crime, Wallin & Klarich, a well-established criminal defense firm with over 38 years of experience can provide you with the legal representation you need.
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