Buting ,Williams & Stilling ,S.C. | A Criminal Defense Law Firm

Call Today for a FREE Consultation


Supreme Court: Cops in hot pursuit may still need a warrant

by | Jun 29, 2021 | Criminal Appeals

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects Americans from “unreasonable” searches and seizures by the government.

That doesn’t always mean that police officers need a warrant before they can search you, but courts start with the base assumption that a warrant is usually necessary before police can enter your home, where you have the greatest expectation of privacy. That said, there are many exceptions to this general warrant requirement, even when it comes to searches of homes.

One of those exceptions has been “hot pursuit.” That is to say, when police have probable cause to believe you have committed a crime and are in hot pursuit of you, they don’t need to stop and get a warrant before following you into your residence.

But what if all they suspect is that you have committed a misdemeanor? Can the police seriously chase a misdemeanor suspect into their home? Or is the lack of severity of the crime important in determining whether a warrant is required?

The U.S. Supreme Court has just ruled that, in a misdemeanor case, hot pursuit is not enough to justify police entry into a home. In addition to the hot pursuit, the police must reasonably conclude there is a law enforcement emergency before they can enter without a warrant.

Misbehaving driver suspected of driving drunk

The case involved a police officer who noticed a driver honking his car horn and playing loud music. This unconventional behavior led the officer to suspect that the driver had been drinking.

The officer activated his police lights, but the driver was almost home when he did so. He had pulled into his garage and was closing the garage door.

The officer leapt from his vehicle in pursuit of the driver and used his foot to prevent the garage door from closing. He entered the house and demanded that the driver submit to field sobriety tests. The driver failed those tests and was ultimately convicted of drunk driving (a misdemeanor).

The state of California argued that hot pursuit is hot pursuit, regardless of the severity of the offense. It said that officers should always be able to enter homes when in hot pursuit of a suspect.

The defense warned that such a rule would empower police to enter homes even when pursuing people for completely non-dangerous offenses like curfew violations.

The high court ruled nearly unanimously that there must be additional exigent circumstances – a separate law enforcement emergency – before officers pursuing a misdemeanor suspect can enter their home.

Practice Areas

“I just want to say thank you for the outstanding work you have done for him and let you know how much we appreciate the time and attention you gave to his case. We are obviously overjoyed by today’s dismissal!” (Child pornography case dismissed after motion to suppress was granted)”

“After having had time to exhale, we thank each one of you and all the others who contributed to the exemplary Supreme Court presentation. We are proud of your efforts on our behalf and, equally important, on behalf of the many present and future defendants statewide.” (Client’s comment after Supreme Court oral argument)

“Thank you. Thank you. I am so pleased to hear that we won. It doesn’t seem that it was even a close call. I appreciate your efforts.” (Oconto County defendant after Buting, Williams & Stilling got his prison sentence overturned in the court of appeals) ”

“Your time and advice was appreciated more than words can express at a time when we really needed someone to guide us.” (Client)

“The outcome was amazing, one unavailable even under identical circumstances in probably 98 percent of federal courtrooms around the country. Separate and apart from the outcome, though, I am supremely impressed by your efforts on your client’s behalf. Your comments in support of the requested sentence were perfect in tone and, having now reviewed the extensive sentencing memorandum you filed, your work in that regard was exemplary as well. Your client was certainly fortunate to have you as his attorney.” (Local federal court attorney present at a sentencing)

“I can’t thank you enough, not only for all of the tireless work that you and your staff put into my case, but for telling me what I needed to hear, at a time when I absolutely had to hear it. I consider myself blessed for everything turning out the way it did, especially since I blindly picked you out of a phone book! You helped me, my family and friends in many more ways than the money ever could.” (Child pornography client)

“I think you will find that in any circles where Kathy’s name is raised, people will always respond positively and identify her as an extremely hardworking, knowledgeable and ethical lawyer who is timely and effective with any endeavor she takes on. These circles would include colleagues, friends, prosecutors, judges, professors and others who have crossed paths with Kathy. They would also include the many lawyers like me who have referred numerous cases to Kathy, invariably with positive feedback from the clients regarding her knowledge of their case, empathy, professionalism and fair-mindedness in addressing their concerns.” (Fellow attorney)

“Thank you for giving [our son] back to us. Wonderful work!” (Family of client accused of armed robbery after charges were dismissed)

“Yes, His perfect time and perfect place, you were a part of this plan. I almost didn’t hire you, but I took a step of faith trusting Him and look what happened? Praise God. Our Lord put you in your vocation for a reason, continue to help those He brings your way. May He bless you in ALL you do!” (Client who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in a northwestern Wisconsin county. He was released from prison after attorneys got his conviction reversed.)

“I really cannot thank you enough for your past help. You really know your stuff. It is actually funny when I think about my other past attorney’s knowledge and then when I talk with you. It’s like night and day. You’re like a walking book of knowledge with a purpose-driven life. Thanks.” (Brown County client of attorney Buting)

“A year later and I still believe your defense is the single best example of lawyering I have ever seen.” (Television reporter commenting on attorney Buting’s defense of Steven Avery)

“You have a certain brilliance that makes me sure that when you talk, it is good information and I am in good hands. You tell it to me like it is even when the things you say are not always the things that I would like to hear. You keep it REAL!!!” (Brown County client)

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel like this was one of the biggest blessings that happened in my life. I put this along with my children being born healthy and when I survived that horrific shooting. I appreciate everything you have done for me. I couldn’t ask for better lawyers. I want to say thank you to everybody at your firm. I owe you more than the fee you so rightfully deserve. … You gave me back hope. Thank you, man! Out of my 36 years … I have never seen such kindness before. I don’t know what I did to deserve this; I’m very thankful nonetheless. Thank you for giving me hope again. Thank you for your generosity. There are still some really good people around.” (Federal criminal appeal client)

“There is no other attorney I’ve ever even heard of I’d rather have as chief counsel and leader of my defense/appeals than Jerome Buting. You’re the best. Period.” (Dane County client)

“Your advice and counsel were greatly appreciated. We appreciate you taking the time on your Sunday and evenings to help us. We are SO happy about the results! Thanks again.” (Waukesha County client)

“Thank you again … for everything. Five and one-half years of commitment, so many ups and downs and an outcome like that. You did a GREAT job.” (Waukesha County felony drug offense client)