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Does Pursuing a Person Suspected of Committing a Misdemeanor Categorically Qualify as an Exigent Circumstance Sufficient for a Warrantless Home Search

Case Name: Lange v. California (2021) ___U.S.___ [141 S.Ct. 2011]
Case #: 20-18
Last Updated: June 23, 2021

Whether the pursuit of a person whom a police officer has probable cause to believe has committed a misdemeanor categorically qualifies as an exigent circumstance sufficient to allow the officer to enter a home without a warrant.

Held:

The Fourth Amendment ordinarily requires that police officers get a warrant before entering a home without permission. But an officer may make a warrantless entry when “the exigencies of the situation” create a compelling law enforcement need. Kentucky v. King, 563 U. S. 452, 460, 131 S. Ct. 1849, 179 L. Ed. 2d 865 (2011). The question presented here is whether the pursuit of a fleeing misdemeanor suspect always—or more legally put, categorically—qualifies as an exigent circumstance. We hold it does not. A great many misdemeanor pursuits involve exigencies allowing warrantless entry. But whether a given one does so turns on the particular facts of the case.

This case was decided on 6/23/2021.

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