Police officers in Florida and around the country are generally required to obtain a search warrant before entering a private residence without permission, but exceptions are made when exigent circumstances exist. Police officers could claim that exigent circumstances exist when they believe that suspects are destroying evidence, or lives are in danger. Warrantless entries without consent or exigent circumstances violate rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The nation’s highest court announced on October 19 that it would rule in another case dealing with this issue.
Attempted traffic stop
The Supreme Court justices will hear arguments in a case involving a California man who was arrested for drunk driving after a police officer entered his residence without a search warrant and smelled alcohol on his breath. The officer had tried to pull the man’s SUV over, but the vehicle pulled into a driveway before he could activate his siren and lights. The man attempted to close his garage door before the officer reached him, but the officer was able to prevent him from doing so.
A panel of appeals court judges ruled that the warrantless entry was legal because the officer was in “hot pursuit” of a suspect. The man claims that this ruling should be overturned because the officer was acting purely on suspicion, and no emergency would be dire enough to warrant exigent circumstances.
Supreme Court rulings
Cases like this one are followed closely by experienced criminal law attorneys as rulings made by the Supreme Court apply across the country. When the facts of a criminal case suggest that rights protected by the Constitution may have been violated, lawyers may study Supreme Court, as well as state court, decisions to find rulings that would support motions to exclude evidence or dismiss charges.