Can the police legally follow you into your home without a warrant, solely because they suspect that you committed a misdemeanor? This is precisely the question the Supreme Court of the United States has been asked to answer in Lange v. California. Based on the Court’s questions during Wednesday’s oral arguments, though, it doesn’t seem like the Court is planning to hand down a ruling that would answer the question for all such cases.
First, let’s review the facts, which fall into a narrow factual crevice in which Fourth Amendment law isn’t exactly clear.
Arthur Gregory Lange had been driving home in California one night listening to loud music, at one point honking his horn a few times. A police officer followed Lange. Later, that officer said he believed the music and honking were misdemeanor violations of the California Vehicle Code.
The officer drove behind Lange, initially without lights or sirens activated. Lange then approached his own driveway. At that time, the officer activated his lights. Lange entered his own driveway, opened his own garage door, pulled into the garage, and tried to close the electric garage door. The officer exited the squad car, then stuck his foot under Lange’s garage door door to stop it from closing. The officer came into the garage, and at that time, allegedly smelled alcohol on Lange’s breath. The officer ordered Lange out of the garage for a DUI investigation.
The officer had proceeded without a warrant. Under…