As the United States Supreme Court has said many times in many ways, a person’s home is his castle, entitled to special protection. But what had not been decided until Lange v. California, was whether a law enforcement officer can enter a house without a warrant in hot pursuit of a homeowner suspected of committing a misdemeanor. This issue has split state courts across the country, including a 1989 New Jersey Supreme Court decision.
On June 23, 2021, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Lange that flight of a suspected misdemeanant does not necessarily, i.e., categorically, justify a police officer’s warrantless entry into the suspect’s house. Rather, the reasonableness of such an invasion of private living space, and hence its constitutionality, depends on the totality of the circumstances. One such circumstance is whether the crime being investigated is a minor one, such as a misdemeanor. A defendant’s flight is another circumstance to be considered.