DWI Arrests Inside the Home

Although it does not seem logical, many drunk driving arrests every year are conducted inside the home. Normally these home arrests take place either as a result of the suspected drunk driver being followed to his or her home by the police or because the drunk driver attempted to conceal their offense by leaving the scene of an accident. Whatever the underlying reason for an arrest within the home, all of these arrests are conducted by the police without an arrest warrant. Therefore, when the defendant moves to suppress the evidence, the burden will be on the State to show that the entry into the defendant’s home was predicated on one or more of the recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement. In the drunk driving context, these exceptions normally involve the following:

Consent: This consent must be given voluntarily and knowingly. The burden is on the State to show the defendant knew he had a right to refuse consent.

Hot pursuit: In Warden v. Hayden, 387 U.S. 294 (1967), the United States Supreme Court recognized the right of police, who have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed by a fleeing suspect, to pursue that person into his or her home in order to make an arrest. The underlying offense/crime must be serious in nature. In New Jersey, drunk driving and disorderly persons offenses are not generally considered serious enough for the purpose of making a warrantless home entry during hot pursuit.

Exigent Circumstances: Police may enter a home without a warrant to make an arrest if, (1) the police have probable cause to believe that the suspect has committed a crime and (2) the police must be confronted with exigent circumstances that require the immediate entry into the home in order to prevent escape, loss of important evidence, or to prevent death or bodily injury to a person. The exigent circumstances require the police take immediate action and make it impractical to seek a warrant.

Seizure outside the home: An officer may seize a suspect, either by arrest or detention, outside the suspect’s home. If the suspect attempts, thereafter, to enter his own home, the police may follow the suspect into the home for the purpose of continuing the seizure or completing the arrest.

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