The Supreme Court issued a ruling that affects criminal court cases in Colorado and across the United States. The court addressed a challenge to a warrantless search and sided with the defendant. The case specifically dealt with warrantless searches relating to pursuits and misdemeanors. The decision may help ensure that law enforcement can only make arrests and procure evidence by following a stricter adherence to the Fourth Amendment.
The basis for the decision
The case at the center of the decision involves a drunk driving arrest inside someone’s garage. A police officer followed a driver home after noticing suspicious driving behavior. A subsequent Breathalyzer test revealed a BAC above the legal limit. The defendant later challenged the arrest based on violations of the Fourth Amendment, the section of the Constitution that protects against illegal search and seizure.
The police might not always need to acquire a warrant to search someone’s home. In situations where an emergency exists, the police may enter. If the police have probable cause to assume a crime is taking place, their warrantless search could be valid. For example, breaking into a home to stop a violent crime may lead to a legitimate arrest. However, the Supreme Court does not believe that a misdemeanor crime constitutes an emergency.
A potential ripple effect
The Supreme Court’s decision may have long-reaching effects on many criminal defense strategies. The decision addressed constitutional issues over “hot pursuits” and whether the police did have time to procure a warrant if the situation did not demand that the police act quickly.
Police might not have to follow new guidelines when following, searching and arresting fleeing suspects of misdemeanor crimes. If it turns out that law enforcement engaged in an illegal arrest or search, a charge could end up dismissed.
If someone has been arrested for a crime, a defense attorney may answer questions about rights violations. An attorney might seek a motion to dismiss evidence or charges under specific circumstances.