North Carolina residents are protected against unreasonable government search and seizure by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the scope of this protection has been clarified from time to time by decisions handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation’s highest court announced on Oct. 19 that it will hear arguments in another Fourth Amendment case.
Attempted traffic stop
The case involves a California man who was taken into custody on a drunk driving charge after a police officer entered his home without first obtaining a search warrant. The officer involved says that he decided to initiate a traffic stop after observing the man honking the horn of his SUV. However, the man reached his destination before the officer could activate his cruiser’s lights and siren. The officer then pulled into the man’s driveway with his lights on and exited his vehicle. He arrested the man because he allegedly detected the odor of alcohol after forcing his garage door open and entering his home.
The man pleaded no contest to the DUI charge and then filed an appeal based on the officer’s warrantless entry. A California appellate court ruled that the officer did not require a warrant because he was involved in a “hot pursuit.” In the man’s Supreme Court petition, he claims that this ruling should be overturned because there was no emergency that would have given the officer the exigent circumstances necessary to enter a private residence without a warrant.
Remaining silent following a search
Experienced criminal law attorneys will likely be following this case closely. The courts take constitutional protections extremely seriously, and judges sometimes determine that law enforcement officers acted improperly even when they obtained a search warrant. This is why defense attorneys may advise their clients to remain silent following police searches no matter how dire their situations seem.