Individuals in the United States benefit from constitutional protections that limit the authority of state figures, like police officers. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights protect people from overreaches of state authority in different situations.
The Fourth Amendment, in particular, is very important for those facing criminal charges or an investigation by law enforcement authorities. The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. Unless police officers have a warrant, they often need the permission of an individual to enter their home to conduct a search, thanks in part to the Fourth Amendment and prior court rulings on cases related to home searches. Still, there are two specific scenarios in which the Fourth Amendment will not necessarily protect people from the police entering their homes without a warrant or permission.
During a hot pursuit
Police officers sometimes need to follow an individual that they believe committed a crime in order to apprehend them and prevent them from causing harm to anyone else. If the officers witness a suspect jump a fence to go onto private property or enter a private residence, the police officers may follow them in many cases. In fact, officers can potentially kick in a door, if necessary, during a hot pursuit. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that the crime must be of a severe enough nature to warrant such pursuit, and misdemeanors may not justify such conduct.
During a crime in progress
Police officers can sometimes notice details while outside of a property that convince them there is a crime occurring inside. They might hear people screaming or threatening each other inside the property. They could potentially smell drugs or see signs of violence through a partially open window. Anytime police suspect a crime in progress, including the destruction of evidence, they are potentially in a position to force entry at that property to stop the crime and arrest the individuals involved.
With the exception of those rare scenarios, inappropriate police searches may potentially lead to challenges against evidence during a criminal trial. Learning more about the Fourth Amendment and its limitations may benefit those who are facing a police investigation or are pending criminal charges.