Can police chase you into your home?

Can police chase you into your home?

We see it a lot on television: a police pursuit results in a chase that weaves through alleys and streets and eventually concludes in a house.  What if that home is the defendant’s?  What does the law say about police chasing you into your own home?  This blog post explains.

As always, contact Van Severen Law Office immediately if you face any kind of criminal charge.  A foot chase frequently leads to obstructing an officer charges.  If a vehicle is involved, more aggravated felony charges such as fleeing/eluding and recklessly endangering safety become involved.  No matter the position you’re in, you’ll find that our defense attorneys can certainly help.  Contact us immediately at (414) 270-0202 and we’ll begin planning your defense.

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Potential charges for running from police

Firstly, if you run from police in your vehicle:

Section 340.06 of the Wisconsin Statutes prohibits fleeing/eluding an officer.  Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 2630 prohibits “operating a vehicle to flee or in an attempt to elude an officer.”  Both pieces of literature describe the same crime.

If you face charges for this offense the government must prove two elements:

  • Firstly, the defendant operated a motor vehicle on a highway after receiving a visual or audible signal from a traffic officer, federal law enforcement officer, marked police vehicle, or unmarked police vehicle.  “Traffic officer” means every officer authorized by law to direct or regulate traffic or to make arrests for violation of traffic regulations.
  • Secondly, the defendant knowingly fled, or attempted to elude, an officer by willful disregard of the visual or audible signal so as to interfere with or endanger the operation of the police vehicle, the traffic officer, other vehicles, or pedestrians.  Increasing the speed of the vehicle is an attempt to flee.  Extinguishing the lights of the vehicle is an attempt to flee.

In basic language, fleeing/eluding charges often result from police chase situations.

Lastly, if you run from police on foot:

Section 946.41 of the Wisconsin Statutes prohibits obstructing an officer.  Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1766 prohibits the same crime.  The elements include:

  • Firstly, the defendant obstructed an office; and
  • Secondly, the officer was doing an act in an official capacity; and
  • Thirdly, the officer was acting with lawful authority; and
  • Finally, the defendant knew that the officer was an officer acting in an official capacity and with lawful authority and that the defendant knew his conduct would obstruct the officer.
Traffic situation with police
Fleeing from the police can lead to criminal charges. Contact our criminal defense attorneys at (414) 270-0202 for help.

So, can police chase you into your home?

We know the potential penalties and charges for running – but can the police continue their pursuit into your home?  Prior to July 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States and the Supreme Court of Wisconsin agreed – “hot pursuit is always an exigency.”  In other words, police didn’t need a warrant to enter the home.

In Lange v. California, SCOTUS found there’s no per se rule allowing home entry while law enforcement officers pursue a misdemeanant.  Each case must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, using a “totality of the circumstances” approach:

Our Fourth Amendment precedents thus point toward assessing case by case the exigencies arising from misdemeanants’ flight. That approach will in many, if not most, cases allow a warrantless home entry. When the totality of circumstances shows an emergency—such as imminent harm to others, a threat to the officer himself, destruction of evidence, or escape from the home—the police may act without waiting. And those circumstances, as described just above, include the flight itself. But the need to pursue a misdemeanant does not trigger a categorical rule allowing home entry, even absent a law enforcement emergency. When the nature of the crime, the nature of the flight, and surrounding facts present no such exigency, officers must respect the sanctity of the home—which means that they must get a warrant.

This all means there’s a disagreement between our top state and federal courts.  The Wisconsin standard is more law-enforcement deferential, and appears to nearly always allow law enforcement the opportunity to chase you into your home.  The federal standard is more stringent, and in certain circumstances may prevent cops from chasing you into your home.

Hire a top Milwaukee criminal defense attorney

Remember, it’s important to hire one of the best criminal defense attorneys you can afford.  Sure, there are always cheap criminal defense lawyers.  But your record and your freedom are on the line whenever you face a potential criminal conviction.

At Van Severen Law Office you’ll meet some of the best criminal defense lawyers in Wisconsin.  We’re aware of the issues you’re facing, especially those involving police chases and whether they can enter your home.  Contact us immediately at (414) 270-0202.  Let’s start fighting your case.

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