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Washington Court: Refusing To Let Cops Enter Homes Without Warrants Isn't Obstruction

A man who refused to open his door to let police enter his home without a warrant should not have been convicted for obstruction of justice, the lead opinion for the Washington Supreme Court concluded on Thursday. “Criminalizing the refusal to open one’s own door to a warrantless entry would be enormously chilling and inconsistent with our deeply held constitutional values,” Justice Steven Gonzalez wrote in Shoreline v. McLemore.

Yet with the conviction upheld, Washington appears to be “the only jurisdiction in which citizens may be prosecuted merely for failing to yield when law enforcement demands warrantless entry to their homes,” according to an amicus brief filed by the ACLU of Washington.

The case began more than three years ago in Shoreline, Washington when a late-night shouting match between Solomon McLemore and his girlfriend prompted a bystander to dial 911. When the officers arrived and repeatedly demanded to be let in, the yelling stopped though no one answered the door. After 15 minutes and still no response, police heard glass shattering and, suspecting domestic violence, began forcing their way inside. As the officers broke down the door, McLemore told police that they were infringing on his rights and that they needed a warrant. Officers also heard McLemore tell his girlfriend to tell police that she was ok.

Once inside, police determined that the woman was not injured and promptly threw McLemore in handcuffs. But McLemore wasn’t charged for domestic violence. Instead, police arrested McLemore for “obstructing a law enforcement officer,” which involves “willfully hinder[ing], delay[ing], or obstruct[ing] any law enforcement officer in the discharge of his or her official powers or duties.” For refusing to open his door to police, McLemore was convicted for obstruction and sentenced to 20 days of house arrest.

[Note: the original article has been updated. -Ed.] For more about this story, please see https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicksibilla/2019/04/19/washington-supreme-c...