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SCOTUS Says Police Cannot Always Enter a Home Without a Warrant

On June 23, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled police officers cannot always enter a home without a warrant when pursuing a person for a minor criminal offense. The case was then returned to the lower court in order to determine if law enforcement officials violated the rights of a California man by following him into his garage for allegedly blasting loud music while driving down an empty two-lane highway late in the evening. 

On behalf of the nation’s highest court, Justice Elena Kagan wrote police had no right to enter the man’s property without a warrant for such a minor crime. She said even though entering a home without a warrant is legal to prevent someone from harming another person, escaping from the home, or destroying evidence, an officer must still obtain a warrant if a person flees the police for a misdemeanor offense. 

During the night of the incident, the man was playing loud music and even honking his horn several times at one point. A California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer accused the driver of violating a noise ordinance and pursued him. Once the driver slowly approached his home, the officer turned on his flashing lights. 

The man claimed that he did not see the police car and proceeded to drive into his garage. The officer then exited his vehicle and placed his foot underneath the closing garage door sensor, forcing the door to open. Despite not having a warrant, the officer then smelled liquor on the man’s breath and subsequently arrested him for both the noise violation and DUI

The man’s appealed that the officer did not have any right to enter his home without a warrant. Therefore, the evidence of the DUI was illegally obtained. 

Although the police may perform a warrantless search when pursuing a fleeing felon, such searches and home entries are prohibited when it comes to minor offenses. 

If you have been arrested in Galveston or within the surrounding area, contact Zendeh Del & Associates, PLLC today at (409) 204-5566 for a free consultation.