California Attorney General Rob Bonta 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. While the Supreme Court has historically allowed warrantless entries whenever police are in “hot pursuit” of a suspected felon, the decision accepted California’s argument that the rule should not be extended categorically to the misdemeanor context. Under the decision, police officers across the country must either obtain a warrant or identify a case-specific emergency to pursue a misdemeanor suspect into their home.
“A person’s home is their castle,” said Attorney General Bonta. “No matter where you live, that underlying principle has always been enshrined in our Constitution: our homes are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures. This is a safeguard that we must jealously defend. While there are important exceptions meant to serve public safety, our laws and policies must always strike a careful balance. I applaud the U.S. Supreme Court for doing exactly that in this decision.”
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. California also argued that the Supreme Court had never extended its felony “hot-pursuit” exception to misdemeanors, and that adopting a nationwide “hot-pursuit” exception in all misdemeanor cases could materially increase intrusions on legitimate privacy interests.