Supreme Court Rules Against Expanding Warrantless Searches For Police

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On Wednesday (June 23), the US Supreme Court ruled against expanding police authority in entering the home of a person suspected of a minor crime without a warrant. 

“The question presented here is whether the pursuit of a fleeing misdemeanor suspect always –– or more legally put, categorically –– qualifies as an exigent circumstance. We hold it does not,” Associate Justice Elena Kagan wrote

The unanimous decision came after a California man parked in his home’s garage and shut the door after a police officer tried to pull him over near his home. The man claims he didn’t see the patrol car behind him and the officer eventually entered the man’s garage, questioned him and placed him under arrest, charging him with a DUI. 

“On many occasions, the officer will have good reason to enter –– to prevent imminent harms of violence, destruction of evidence, or escape from the home,” Kagan wrote. “But when the officer has time to get a warrant, he must do so –– even though the misdemeanant fled,” the associate justice added. 

Under the Fourth Amendment, police are typically required to have a warrant to conduct a search of someone’s home. Some courts have made exceptions in the past for when officers are in pursuit of a person suspected of committing a felony offense. In this case, however, the offense, failure to stop, is a misdemeanor. 

The ruling comes as advocates and some state lawmakers push to end or limit no-knock warrants for police. The practice has come under scrutiny after the deaths of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky and Johnny Bolton in Georgia. In Chicago, a botched no-knock warrant raid left a social worker naked and in handcuffs for nearly an hour as police determined to have the wrong home.

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