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Supreme Court Rules That Hot Pursuit Exception Does Not Apply in DUI Case

Typically, DUI arrests arise out of traffic stops instigated because of suspicion of drunk driving. While people usually pull over when they are followed by a police car with activated lights or sirens, some do not notice that they are being pursued by an officer and keep driving. Although the police are permitted to pursue fleeing suspects, in cases involving misdemeanors, there are limitations to what measures they can take to apprehend them. This was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court in a recent ruling issued in a DUI case in which the court found that the hot pursuit exception did not provide an automatic right to search a misdemeanor suspect’s home. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is in your best interest to consult a dedicated Illinois DUI lawyer to examine your rights.

The Supreme Court Ruling

Allegedly, the defendant was honking his horn and playing loud music while he was driving. He drove past a police officer, who began following him. The officer eventually activated his overhead lights in an effort to get the defendant to pull over. The defendant continued to drive, however, and ultimately pulled into his driveway and then garage. The officer interfered with the closing of the defendant’s garage, entered the garage, and began questioning the defendant. He observed that the defendant smelled of alcohol and was exhibiting other signs of intoxication.

Reportedly, the officer then asked the defendant to submit to field sobriety testing. The defendant failed the tests and was arrested for DWI. Subsequent testing revealed his blood-alcohol level to be over three times the legal limit. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence against him on the grounds that it was obtained via a warrantless search in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

The court denied his motion, and after a series of appeals, the case proceeded to the Supreme Court. The Court ultimately ruled that an officer’s pursuit of a fleeing misdemeanor suspect, in and of itself, is not adequate grounds for conducting a warrantless search. Instead, each matter must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if exigent circumstances exist that rendered the search permissible.

The Impact of the Ruling on Illinois DUI Cases

In Illinois, as in most other states, it is unlawful to drive while impaired due to the use of alcohol or with a blood alcohol level exceeding 0.08%, and many DUI arrests arise out of traffic stops caused by erratic driving. Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the established law in Illinois was that the hot pursuit exception to the warrant requirement permitted the police to enter the home of a DUI suspect who was perceived as trying to evade the police. Following the ruling, however, each matter will have to be evaluated independently to determine if just cause for ignoring the warrant requirement exists.

Speak to a Trusted Illinois DUI attorney

If you are charged with a DUI offense, it is smart to speak to an attorney about your rights. Theodore J. Harvatin, of the Harvatin Law Offices, PC, is a trusted Illinois DUI defense lawyer who can fight to help you seek the best outcome available in your case. You can contact Mr. Harvatin by calling 217.525.0520 or through the form online to schedule a meeting.

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