Course: Introduction / Policing / Procedural Law
A Hot Pursuit Search is a warrantless but lawful search of premises for a person actively evading police pursuit.
A Hot Pursuit Search is a type of search that allows law enforcement officers to enter and search a property without a warrant when they are in “hot pursuit” of a suspect who is actively evading them. This type of search is authorized under the Fourth Amendment’s “exigent circumstances” exception, which permits warrantless searches in emergency situations where there is a risk of imminent danger or evidence may be destroyed if officers wait for a warrant.
Hot Pursuit Searches have been a source of controversy in the criminal justice system, with some arguing that they can be prone to abuse by law enforcement and can infringe upon individual liberties. However, the Supreme Court has recognized the importance of such searches in certain situations and has established certain criteria for their use.
In United States v. Santana, the Supreme Court held that a suspect who is attempting to flee from police can be pursued onto private property without a warrant and that the police can conduct a search of that property if they have reason to believe that the suspect is hiding there. The Court reasoned that the suspect’s attempt to evade the police creates an exigent circumstance that justifies a warrantless search and that the pursuit must be “hot” in order to justify the intrusion on individual liberties.
In Welsh v. Wisconsin, the Supreme Court further clarified the circumstances under which a Hot Pursuit Search can be conducted. In this case, the police were pursuing a suspect who had fled the scene of a nonviolent misdemeanor. The suspect entered his own home and refused to come out, and the police then entered the home without a warrant and arrested him. The Court held that the warrantless entry was unconstitutional because the suspect’s offense was not serious enough to justify a Hot Pursuit Search. The Court noted that the use of such searches must be based on an actual emergency and that officers must be able to demonstrate that the intrusion on individual liberties was no greater than necessary to address the emergency.
Despite these guidelines, there have been instances in which Hot Pursuit Searches have been the subject of controversy and litigation. In some cases, law enforcement officers have used Hot Pursuit Searches as a pretext to conduct searches for evidence or to apprehend suspects who are not actively evading them. These incidents have led to calls for increased accountability and reform in law enforcement practices.
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Last Modified: 04/13/2023