Warrantless Search of Homes, With Judge Eugene Hyman, Santa Clara, California

In a case that reached the Supreme Court, police officers went to a home on a domestic violence call.  One of the police officers saw an unusual tattoo on the defendant that was cited in a robbery.  The police wanted to search the home for any indication of robbery and they asked to go in.  The defendant said no because he knew his rights, as the police did not have a search warrant.  The defendant was subsequently arrested on the domestic violence call, taken to county jail and booked.  Later on, another police officer went back to the home and asked the other occupant of the house to go in, which the occupant granted, and evidence of the robbery was found.  The defendant was convicted for that robbery and eventually sent to state prison for 14 years.

Retired Superior Court Judge Eugene Hyman, of Santa Clara, California, says the defendant has appealed through the state and federal courts and eventually the Supreme Court, stating that there was a violation of his fourth amendment (search and seizure) rights.  His position was that once he said no, they were prohibited from going back to the home and searching.

The police could have obtained a search warrant based upon probable cause and they didn't, so the question is whether that was a violation, according to Hyman.  Emergency and consent are the two exceptions to search warrant requests and the police officers probably thought that since they had consent from the other occupant, that they could go ahead and search.  One of the arguments is how long the denial of the first entry lasts, says Hyman.

Honorable Judge Eugene Hyman has received numerous awards and recognition for his work with families and children and has appeared on numerous television news shows. For more information, visit www.judgehyman.com. He is also a featured commentator on The Family Law Channel and The Legal Broadcast Network.  For more information on the article in the Wall Street Journal, click here.