In its brief to the Supreme Court, the California Department of Justice argued against categorically applying a "hot-pursuit" exception to the warrant requirement in the misdemeanor context, noting that it would be contrary to the historical evidence regarding the original meaning of the Fourth Amendment.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court vacated a ruling by a lower court that held a police officer was justified in entering a man's garage on the basis that the suspect had fled a misdemeanor charge. But Lange continued driving for about four seconds, turned into his driveway and entered his garage without stopping.
The court had previously said that police in "hot pursuit" of a suspect believed to have committed a more serious crime, a felony, can enter a home without a warrant.
The court's ruling came in the case of Arthur Lange, who was playing loud music in his vehicle late one night, at one point honking his horn several times.
"The need to pursue a misdemeanant does not trigger a categorical rule allowing home entry, even absent a law enforcement emergency", she wrote.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta today applauded the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Lange v. California, placing important safeguards on the circumstances in which police officers can enter a home without a warrant. He drew the attention of a CHP officer who began following him.
Officers followed Lange into the garage and put him through a field sobriety test. The officer, in "hot pursuit", got out of his auto and put his foot under the closing garage door sensor to force the door open again.
The high court ruled that when officers are pursuing someone suspected of a misdemeanor, a less serious crime, they can not always enter a home without a warrant if a suspect enters. The officer smelled alcohol on his breath and wrote Lange a ticket for driving under the influence and for the "infraction of operating a vehicle's sound system at excessive levels".
In reversing the state appeals court, Kagan said "an officer must consider all the circumstances in a pursuit case to determine whether there is a law enforcement emergency".
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.