WASHINGTON – Arthur Lange became 100 feet from his driveway while the California patrol officer behind him flipped on his flashing lights. Rather than stop, Lange grew closer to his Sonoma County domestic, pulled into his garage, and closed the door.
Over the next few seconds, what occurred over the next few seconds caused years of litigation and a case to be argued Wednesday at the Supreme Court with sweeping implications for police power.
As Lange’s storage door descended on that October night in 2016, Officer Aaron Weikert got out of his car and stuck his foot below it, triggering the sensor that sent it back up.
“Did you not see me behind you?” the officer asked Lange, who stated he had not. As Lange spoke, the Weikert smelled alcohol on his breath. A test later discovered Lange’s blood-alcohol content material became three times the legal limit, and he was charged with DUI.
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The query at the heart of the exchange: Whether Weikert became on the constitutionally shaky floor while entering Lange’s storage without a warrant.
Police are usually required to have a warrant to go into a person’s home under the 4th Amendment’s prohibition on “unreasonable searches.” But courts have allowed exceptions when an officer is in “hot pursuit” of a suspect believed to have dedicated a felony. In Lange’s case, police should consider the simplest factor to his failure to stop, a misdemeanor.