Enjoyment of the sanctity and expectation of privacy in one’s home is perhaps one of the most profound rights we expect.  The home is greatly protected by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.


Absent a search warrant there are few exceptions to justify law enforcement’s entry into one’s home.  There are, however, exceptions in certain instances including “exigent circumstances”, consent, and sometimes “hot pursuit”.


Exigent circumstances is essentially emergency circumstances.  For example if a house is one fire and there are individuals in the home, someone in the home requires medical attention such as in a drug overdose, or a domestic incident with threat of physical harm.


Consent is another basis for the police to enter one’s home.  If consent to enter a defendant’s home is an issue in a criminal case, the courts look at the “totality of the circumstances” and weigh various factors in determining if the consenter did so unequivocally, freely, and not as the result of coercion or duress.


In the monumental case of Payton v. New York, (445 U.S. 573 (1979), the United States Supreme Court addressed the issue of law enforcement’s entry into the home to make an arrest absent a warrant. In doing so the court placed great emphasis on the sanctity of the home, the history and rationale for the fourth amendment, and ultimately held that a warrant is required for law enforcement to enter one’s home, even to make a felony arrest upon probable cause.


The Supreme Court in Payton, opined, “The physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed.  To be arrested in the home involves not only the invasion attendant to all arrests, but also an invasion of the sanctity of the home, which is too substantial an invasion to allow without a warrant, in the absence of exigent circumstances, even when it is accomplished under statutory authority and when probable cause is present.  In terms that apply equally to seizures of property and to seizures of persons, the Fourth Amendment has drawn a firm line at the entrance to the house.  Absent exigent circumstances, that threshold may not reasonably be crossed without a warrant.


The Payton Court also acknowledged that, “the simple language of the Amendment applies equally to seizures of persons and to seizures of property.  Our analysis in this case may therefore properly commence with rules that have been well established in Fourth Amendment litigation involving tangible items“.


The court in Payton, further stated that “It is settled doctrine that probable cause for belief that certain articles subject to seizure are in a dwelling cannot of itself justify a search without a warrant.  Agnello v. United States, (269 U.S. 20, 33); Taylor v. United States, (286 U.S. 1, 6.


Payton v. New York is one of the fundamental cases defense attorneys and judges rely on when arguing or justifying that a police officer’s entry into someone’s home was unconstitutional.  However there are numerous other cases that have evolved as a result of Payton and the application of the 4th amendment in general.


If you have been charged with a drug or weapon’s case where the police entered your home it is important to have a criminal defense attorney review your case and determine if the officer’s entry into your home was lawful and constitutional.  If it is found that the entry into the home was unconstitutional the items seized could be suppressed by the court and the charges potentially dismissed.


If you are charged with a case involving police officer’s entry into your home and/or search of your home or person contact Jason C. Henskee, Esq. to review your case for free.




February 25, 2016





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