WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court said Friday it would clarify when police can enter a home without a search warrant, in a case involving Utah officers who watched a fight through a window.
Justices will consider officers' handling of an early morning complaint in Brigham City about a loud party. The officers peered through a door and windows and saw four adults restraining a juvenile, who then broke free and punched one of the adults in the face.
The officers entered and arrested the adults, who were charged with intoxication, disorderly conduct and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
A judge threw out the charges, on grounds that the police entered without a search warrant.
In an appeal, the state of Utah argued that courts are deeply divided on what emergency circumstances are required for warrantless police entries.
"The Brigham City officers' entry into the home was not only reasonable, but compelled by the circumstances. The officers would have been derelict in their duty had they not acted," state lawyers told justices.
States supporting Utah in the case are Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
The case is Brigham City v. Stuart, 05-502.