Fourth Amendment focal point of upcoming Supreme Court search case

A criminal defense attorney is looking forward to promoting his client’s legal rights and defending the Constitution this autumn in a federal appeals case that will be heard by the United States Supreme Court.

The case has universal applicability, from California (where it occurred) to Georgia, given that it centers on the parameters of police conduct. The material facts are presented immediately following.

Police in Los Angeles showed up at an apartment pursuant to a robbery investigation, their presence allegedly owing to sounds of fighting they said they heard. Although the woman who answered the door showed some evidence of injuries, officers did not note an emergency situation. Notwithstanding that lack of immediate peril or urgency, they began to enter the home, when they were stopped by a male resident objecting to their presence.

The officers’ response was to arrest and remove the man from the home and then, pursuant to the woman’s consent, search the apartment, where they found evidence used to convict the man of armed robbery.

He appealed, arguing that the Fourth Amendment bars a warrantless search of a home absent an emergency when a resident objects to a police entry. He lost that argument, with a state appeals court ruling that such a bar exists only when a resident remains at the home. Once removed, and provided another resident consents to a search, police may enter.

The case will now be entertained at the highest level, when the Supreme Court begins its next session this October. The man’s attorney recently stated that, in his client’s case, a judge’s warrant was clearly required as a prerequisite to police entering the home.

Otherwise, he noted, all police need to do in any case where a person is objecting to a search is simply arrest and remove that person.

“Then what good is the Fourth Amendment?” he queries.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, “Search allowed by roommate to high court,” Bob Egelko, May 21, 2013