Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Misdemeanors


By: Ali Sabzevari
Generally in situations where an officer is truly in “hot pursuit” and the underlying offense is a felony, the Fourth Amendment usually yields to the officer’s interest in apprehending the fleeing suspect.
What about situations where the underlying offense is only a misdemeanor?
The Supreme Court of the United States in Stanton v. Sims, 12-1217, 2013 WL 5878007 (U.S. Nov. 4, 2013) seems to make clear that the Fourth Amendment also yields to an officer’s interest in apprehending a fleeing suspect where there is probable cause to arrest for a misdemeanor.
The officer in Stanton made a warrantless entry into a fenced yard of a home in hot pursuit of a man suspected of a misdemeanor offense.  The Supreme Court held, for purposes of determining whether the officer is entitled to qualified immunity, that the law was not clearly established that a warrantless entry into a home in hot pursuit of a suspect who the officer has probable cause to arrest for a misdemeanor violated the Fourth Amendment.
The Supreme Court has given government officials a little more “breathing room” to make their split-second decisions in the dangerous and unpredictable field of law enforcement.