A few weeks ago the United States Supreme Court decided Lange v. California, 594 U.S. ___, ___ S. Ct. ___ (June 23, 2021), holding that the flight of a person suspected of a misdemeanor offense does not categorically justify an officer’s warrantless entry into a home. Today’s post reviews how Lange fits into the landscape of Fourth Amendment cases establishing when an officer may forcibly enter a suspect’s home without a warrant.
In 2016, the North Carolina Court of Appeals held in State v. Adams, 250 N.C. App. 664 (2016), that law enforcement officers acted lawfully when, lacking a warrant, they chased a man suspected of driving while license revoked into his home where they arrested him. The court determined that because the officers were engaged in hot pursuit, they did not need to establish additional exigent circumstances such as immediate danger or destruction of evidence to justify forcibly entering the suspect’s home. This year, the United States Supreme Court is reviewing a California case raising the same issue: Does pursuit of a person who a police officer has probable cause to believe has committed a misdemeanor categorically qualify as an exigent circumstance sufficient to allow the officer to enter a home without a warrant? See Lange v. California, 141 S. Ct. 1617 (2020) (granting review of People v. Lange, No. A157169, 2019 WL 5654385 (Cal. Ct. App. Oct. 30, 2019) (unpublished)).