Knowing your civil rights is important because you never know when you might have an interaction with law enforcement. Police officers sometimes willingly bend or outright break the law in their attempts to enforce it. They also violate people’s civil rights or convince them to waive their rights before they realize the consequences of their actions.
Sometimes, police officers take their authority too far, which can impact what happens in criminal court. Trying to justify searches with paper-thin excuses and conducting dangerous pursuits are both police behaviors that are less than ideal.
Unfortunately, as long as these actions result in evidence that helps convict someone, officers may continue to engage in the same questionable conduct. A recent Supreme Court ruling limits how police can justify their warrantless search of someone’s property.
Hot pursuit has historically led to warrantless searches
When police officers identify a suspect in public or follow someone from the scene of a crime, they engage in a hot pursuit. They will chase that person in the hope of arresting them and eventually charging them with a criminal offense. During a pursuit, police officers may enter private property or even force their way into someone’s home.
Now, a Supreme Court ruling limits their ability to continue pursuits onto private property. In a June 2021 ruling, the United States Supreme Court determined that police officers need to be more careful about when they force entry onto private property because of a pursuit.
Specifically, the courts found that warrantless entry due to a pursuit stemming from a misdemeanor offense may exceed the appropriate level of force given the relatively low severity of the crime.
What might this ruling mean for criminal defendants?
There are occasionally people who get swept up in police enforcement actions because officers entered their homes during a pursuit and saw something while there that led to criminal charges. Kicking in the wrong door of an apartment building might mean that the police officers find someone’s drug paraphernalia, for example.
With the precedent established through this Supreme Court ruling, police officers will have a hard time justifying that entry and therefore the use of any evidence they collect in court proceedings. Learning about your rights as a defendant can help you defend yourself against possible criminal charges.