Justices said four Brigham City, Utah, police officers were justified in going inside a home in 2000 after peeking through a window and seeing a fight between a teenager and adults.So the cops can barge into your house to break up a fight? Better stop fighting in front of open windows.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the unanimous court, said that officers had a reasonable basis for going inside to stop violence, even though they could not announce their arrival over loud noise of a party.
"The role of a peace officer includes preventing violence and restoring order, not simply rendering first aid to casualties; an officer is not like a boxing (or hockey) referee, poised to stop a bout only if it becomes too one-sided," Roberts wrote.
The trial judge had ruled that police had violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches by failing to knock before entering the house.
When the adults realized the officers were inside the house, they allegedly became abusive and were charged with disorderly conduct, intoxication and contributing to the delinquency of a minor - all misdemeanors.
But here's my question. It's a sports question. A sports and writing question. We're familiar with the way a referee in a boxing can stop a fight if it becomes too one-sided. Why throw in "(or hockey)"? It not only clutters the sentence, it makes the concept harder to grasp. I don't even know about hockey referees stopping one-sided games. Since Roberts is known for the high quality of his writing style, I've got to think that parenthetical really adds something. But what?
Is it that in hockey fights break out, and the refs don't stop them unless they're one-sided, and it's actually more like the police situation because the fighting isn't legitimate in the first place, but some people might think the police should ignore fights unless someone is outmatched? In that case, hockey is a more apt analogy in light of the argument that the search was unreasonable.
MORE: Here's the whole opinion. This is the analysis of why the search was reasonable:
The officers were responding, at 3 o’clock in the morning, to complaints about a loud party. As they approached the house, they could hear from within “an altercation occurring, some kind of a fight.” “It was loud and it was tumultuous.” The officers heard “thumping and crashing” and people yelling “stop, stop” and “get off me.” As the trial court found, “it was obvious that … knocking on the front door” would have been futile. The noise seemed to be coming from the back of the house; after looking in the front window and seeing nothing, the officers proceeded around back to investigate further. They found two juveniles drinking beer in the backyard. From there, they could see that a fracas was taking place inside the kitchen. A juvenile, fists clenched, was being held back by several adults. As the officers watch, he breaks free and strikes one of the adults in the face, sending the adult to the sink spitting blood.(Usage buffs may discuss whether the sentence I've put in boldface should be in the present tense.)
In these circumstances, the officers had an objectively reasonable basis for believing both that the injured adult might need help and that the violence in the kitchen was just beginning.
UPDATE: Marty Lederman links to my post and says:
Althouse ... ponders why the Chief Justice all-of-a-sudden lapsed into a screenwriter's present tense in the final sentence of this paragraph... Are these the Chief's ways of giving we Court-watchers something to talk about on a light decision day?Well, Marty's giving us Court-watchers something else to talk about...