Posted: March 23rd, 2023

The Doctrine of the Hot Pursuit Law


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The doctrines of hot pursuit are progressive crime management instruments that have been used in the United States to progressively fright crime and manage complex criminal situations in the country. The hot pursuit rule gives the police officer authority to conduct searches without warrants, especially during extraordinary circumstances. The Supreme Court of the United States allowed the principle of hot pursuit to take effect under the exigent circumstances. However, the police have the primary responsibility to ensure that in the execution of the hot pursuit rule, the Fourth Amendment rights of the suspect are not infringed.


The Doctrine of the Hot Pursuit Law


The doctrines of hot pursuit under the guidance of the Supreme court of the United States of America allows the police department to accost a suspect to his/her residence and conduct a search for evidence without a formal search warrant. The doctrine recognizes these rights and vests the privileges to pursue criminals or suspects under an emergency constitutional door seeking to protect against loss of potential evidence or further escape of the suspects. The context of the Hot Pursuit doctrine law upheld by the Supreme Court of the US principally gives a law enforcement officer ability to make arrests with or without a warrant. The main objective of the hot pursuit doctrine was to ensure the disappearance of evidence or the preventions of the potential escape of a person suspected to have committed a felony or a misdemeanor are managed. Therefore, the discussion will provide a review of the principles of the hot pursuit law, detailing its importance in restorative justice, reduction of risk situations in the US as well as annotate various incidences where the doctrine has been used to manage complex crime scenarios.

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The Principle of the Doctrine of Hot Pursuit

The principle of the doctrine of hot pursuit holds the premise of pursuit without any unreasonable delay even though the pursuit may not be scheduled immediately after report or complaint is launched. Hot pursuit according to Douglas (2017) allows law enforcement officers to chase after or follow a suspect discretely into a neighboring police or a security jurisdiction within emergency situations without the obligations to inform the local police or law enforcement of the area. The doctrine of hot pursuit duly accords a member of a county, state or municipal force unit of a different state in the US a permission to enter into another state in hot pursuit and to continue in the same mission until arrest takes place. In this case, the officer is considered to have acted in good faith, so long as the felony or crime is punishable by a maximum term either equal or exceeding one year. The doctrine of hot pursuit also allows the police or enforcement officer to pursue anybody suspected to be driving a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or intoxicating alcohol within a state.

Several crime scene experts and enforcement agencies have previously suffered institutional incapacity and legal limitations in the tracking of criminals. The institutional and legal limitations have been the under the provision of the supreme law that required an officer to produce an arrest warrant. To ensure the right of all US citizens, an intention to arrest was issued by a Judge after the ascertainment that the person in question is a genuine risk to the public and could not present themselves in court to answer to the charges.

The Supreme Court Ruling

The US Supreme Court establishes that the rule is a significant exception to the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment (Grossman, 2016). The US constitution provides safeguards to the citizens, especially against the excessive intrusion of the police into private life and property. The first level of protection is the Search Warrant, which the constitution maintains that it must be obtained from a judge or magistrate before the police or law enforcement departments can conduct searches or schedule an arrest. However, the court observes that under exceptional circumstance, and for the interest of the general public, the hot pursuit rule gives police the additional powers to access private properties either to conduct searches or arrests without the prerequisite to acquire a search warrant.

Accordingly, the doctrines of the hot pursuit rule acknowledge the systemic and systematic limitations of the Fourth Amendment rights under the purview of the reality in the works of the police or other state protection units. More importantly, when there is an approach to special emergencies with higher potential threat situations to the public, it becomes necessary that the police department acts to prevent or stop a possible crime or an occasion to crime scenarios through the opportunity to conduct warrantless searches.

The Checks in the Doctrine of Hot Pursuit

Every form of arbitrary freedom given to the police or members of protection units can be subjected to abuse. It is not common to find police searches or arrests for purposes of intimidations to the public or to handle political ideology of the state. Bennett (2015) explains that the state or powerfully connected individual has taken advantage of constitutional statutes to arbitrarily abuse, harass, and intimidate citizens for purposes of winning their silence or mounting fear and pressure on them. Therefore, to guarantee a deterrent to the abuse of power, the Fourth Amendment has designed models to ensure the rise of a police state is barred. Even though the requirement of police officers to obtain a search warrant prevent the arbitrary violations of the rights to freedoms for the US citizens, the applications of the rights to freedom must be applied in situations of complete security for everyone and without threat to the same security (Lowe, 2016).

The Supreme Court in the 20th century pronounced itself over the rights of freedom and asserts that the freedom is not absolute. Similarly, the court has allowed “exit circumstances,” empowering the police to act as an emergency response and conduct searches. However, the police must have verifiable probable courses to conduct such searches without the legal warrants from a judge or magistrate. It is assumed that during this circumstance, the process to obtain a search warrant would be impractical based on the urgent operational requirement to frisk suspect of weapons or search automobiles in transit.

The Supreme Court of the United States pronounced itself in the hot pursuit case of 1967, Warden v. Hayden, 387 U.S. 294, 87 S. Ct. 1642 18 L. Ed. 2d 782. The court allowed the unwarranted search under exigent circumstances. During the hearing of the case, the court was told how an armed robber under pursuit of the police disappeared from the chase and entered his dwelling place. The police, without an official warrant, searched and obtained evidence before apprehending the suspect who at the point of arrest was in bed. The defendant alleged his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated given the fact that the search was conducted without a warrant. Conversely, the Supreme Court disagreed based on the principle anchored on the need to protect the principle and foundations of freedom for everyone through the avoidance of situations of potential crime

The Application of the Hot Pursuit

The Supreme Court ruling on the Warden case was a grand mark since it provides procedural measures and methods on the applications of the hot pursuit rule. The lower courts under the US has made determinations based on the Warden case to make a determination on the conduct of the police and ascertain whether the police acted in the best interest of the state to avert crime or acted unreasonably, infringing on the Fourth Amendment rights of the citizen. Therefore, the hot pursuit doctrines are applied by the police to make searches, track evidence and make arrests to suspected criminals.

The courts within the US have the principle and the framework to make determinations on the threshold of the doctrine as used by the police and rule based on the evidence provided.  Several cases have been determined in support of the hot pursuit doctrine. For instance, there is a case of United States v. Santana, 427 S.U. 38, 96 S. Ct. 2406, 49 L. Ed. 2d 300 [1976] where a suspect was spotted by the person carrying marked money from a drug sting. The suspect retreated into her house, necessitating a search.  Other applications have been on persons with similar identities or trailed assailants or suspects of narcotic deals within a residential flat.

Declining the Warrantless Search

Although the doctrines of the hot pursuit rule are allowed as a tool to manage insecurity potential by the police, the courts have absolute powers to determine its applications (Dimitrova & Brkan, 2017). Therefore, the police applies the rule under strict observations of the principle and the code of ethics provided in order to ensure that it does not abuse the Fourth Amendment rights of the person being arrested. Several situations have come up where the court declared that the hot pursuit principles were used incorrectly and therefore the suspect’s rights were violated.

An example of such situations was the case on the improper use of hot pursuit in O’Brien v. City of Grand Rapids, 23 F.3d 990 (6th Cir. 1994) where the police pursued a suspect to his residence and invited more backup to surround it, but took more than 6 hours around the premise without obtaining a warrant (Epstein et al., 2015). The court observed that the police having secured the area had no reason not to obtain a warrant since the fear of destructions or shifting away evidence or destruction of property, including a threat to safety has been prevented by the huge presence of law enforcers around the building. Therefore, the court ruled that no exigent circumstances sanctioned the warrantless search.

The scenario in the O’Brien case indicates that even though the hot pursuit doctrine is allowed and ratified by the Supreme Court, the police departments and other law enforcement agencies are expected to implement it within a guided framework. Dimitrova and Brkan (2017) assert that the principal responsibility of the police is to ensure citizens enjoy their freedoms and conduct their day-day businesses without any fear of intimidation or apprehension.


Police officers wield massive authority and power within the society. The power to arrest and charge involves activities that majority of citizens’ dread. It is, therefore, important that the Fourth Amendment rights of every citizen are observed without any level of infringement. Accordingly, such rights cannot be guaranteed if levels of insecurity and situations of potential danger or risk to life and property are allowed to exist within the society with protection from a constitutional statute like the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, it is imperative that the doctrine of hot pursuit is implemented as envisaged by the Supreme Court in order to facilitate the work of the police department and ensure the rights, properties, and freedoms of the ordinary law-abiding citizens are respected.

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