What is a Hot Pursuit?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 23 February 2020
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Hot pursuit is the active, and sometimes immediate, pursuit by a law enforcement agency or officer of a person who has committed, is committing, or is suspected of having committed a crime. A hot pursuit implies that the effort is being made without unreasonable delay, and though it does not have to be immediate pursuit, it is often used synonymously with immediate pursuit. The term can be used to describe an arrest being made after an investigation has revealed a suspect or a chase in pursuit of a suspect who is in the act of committing a crime, such as in situations of car theft or driving under the influence (DUI). A hot pursuit can also allow an officer to continue chasing a suspect into another agency or state’s jurisdiction.

Originally used by the United States (US) Coast Guard during the Prohibition era to refer to the pursuit of individuals believed to be smuggling illegal alcohol into the US, hot pursuit is still used by law enforcement officers and professionals. The term can be used to describe entering immediate pursuit, in a situation where a suspect in a vehicle refuses to pull over for an officer or if an attempt is made to flee the scene of a crime or arrest. Such a pursuit may also be entered into with or without a warrant, as determined by the potentially immediate nature of the situation.


The term can also be used to describe a pursuit situation where a law enforcement officer is in pursuit of a suspect who has gone into a neighboring jurisdiction and the officer does not have time to properly inform the law enforcement agencies of that area before entering. Typically, when officers of one agency have to enter an area under the jurisdiction of another agency, they have to go through certain procedures to ensure proper handling of the investigation in both areas. If an officer is pursuing someone actively, however, and that person enters another jurisdictional region, the officer in hot pursuit can typically follow without worrying about going through the proper channels.

Such hot pursuit statutes can include state laws regarding the entering of the state from a neighboring state by a law enforcement officer in pursuit of a suspect. The statute may include specific details regarding the nature of the pursuit or a requirement for the severity of the crime suspected of or being committed to justify waiving of standard procedures. Similar laws can also exist between neighboring countries, especially in places like Europe with many countries in a relatively small geographical space. These types of hot pursuit statutes allow pursuing officers to continue efforts to apprehend a suspect without being impeded by jurisdictional concerns.


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