The foundation of any discussion on entering a home is Payton v. New York, OCT79, USSC No. 78-5420. In Payton the Federal Supreme Court struck down a New York statute that allowed officers to enter a residence without a warrant to make a felony arrest.
In terms that apply equally to seizures of property and to seizures of persons, the Fourth Amendment has drawn a firm line at the entrance to the house. Absent exigent circumstances, that threshold may not reasonably be crossed without a warrant.Payton made it clear that officers couldn't enter a residence to seek a suspect, absent the usual exigent circumstances (defendant will escape, defendant will harm self or others, defendant will destroy evidence), unless they had a warrant in hand. This case probably more sited for its converse aspect: if an officer has a warrant he may go into the residence to get the suspect.
As with any foundational case, this case led to a series of subsequent cases answering cases which refined the holding. These are the major questions that I know have been answered so far.
Can an officer with an arrest warrant enter a third party's house in order to arrest a suspect?
No. An arrest warrant does not allow an officer to enter the house of a 3d party in order to get the suspect.. Steagald v. U.S., APR81, USSC No. 79-6777. Of course, there are exceptions to this if there are exigent circumstances or consent. In all other circumstances the officers must get a search warrant to search a third party's residence. However, while this definitely protects the resident, the entry into the 3d party's residence is not a violation of the suspect's rights and he probably wouldn't be able to use this as a defense. See e.g. U.S. v. Willis, SEP10, USDC EDVa No. 3:10CR186-HEH.
What if an officer is trying to arrest a suspect and she runs back into her house?
If a person is in public, including the open doorway of her house, and the officers engage in an attempt to arrest her, the officers are not required to stop at the door when the suspect retreats into the house. U.S. v. Santana, JUN76, USSC No. 75-19. It is considered a "hot pursuit." Thus, during the Saturday night fun and games, when officers respond to a call about Bob being drunk again and Bob opens the door and spits at them, it's constitutional when they break the door down to get him.
Can officer just enter the suspect's residence as long as they have an arrest warrant?
No. There is a test as to (a) whether this is the suspect's residence, and (b) whether the suspect is in the residence. However, there is a difference of opinion as to what level of proof the officers must have of these two factors. The older standard is the one first laid out in U.S. v. Magluta, FEB95, 11Cir No. 93-5069.
We think it sufficient to hold that in order for law enforcement officials to enter a residence to execute an arrest warrant for a resident of the premises, the facts and circumstances within the knowledge of the law enforcement agents, when viewed in the totality, must warrant a reasonable belief that the location to be searched is the suspect's dwelling, and that the suspect is within the residence at the time of entry.The reasonable belief standard seems to be the one that is adhered to in most jurisdictions, but in a minority of jurisdictions the standard is probable cause. The case which begins this line is U.S. v. Gorman, DEC02, 9Cir No. 02-50053.
We now conclude that the "reason to believe" standard of Payton and Underwood embodies the same standard of reasonableness inherent in probable cause.I cannot find any Virginia cases which decide this question. However, it seems to me that the Courts Appellate Virginian would almost certainly follow the majority and adopt the lesser reasonable belief standard.
Can an officer enter a suspect's residence if he has a misdemeanor arrest warrant for the suspect?
Yes. People just don't want to believe an officer can enter a residence to arrest someone on a misdemeanor warrant and often law enforcement agencies have policies against doing so. Additionally, there is an argument that since Payton struck down a statute allowing entry without a warrant to make a felony arrest that the converse aspect of that decision is that officers can enter with a felony arrest warrant - not a misdemeanor arrest warrant. However, this interpretation of Payton has been roundly rejected.
The case which sets forth the interpretation of Payton allowing entry with a misdemeanor warrant is U.S. v. Spencer, JUL82, 2Cir No. 81-1493. The decision points out that no matter the language of the rejected statute, the court in Payton speaks of arrest warrants generally, not distinguishing felony warrants and misdemeanor warrants. It concludes that the general language includes all arrest warrants (felony, misdemeanor, and bench) and therefore an officer with any arrest warrant can enter a residence. Every opinion I have found addressing this issue adopts the Spencer reasoning and allows officers to enter residences when they have a misdemeanor warrant in hand. In fact, Virginia takes it a step further. In Archer v. Commonwealth, NOV97, VaApp No. 1726-96-1, the Virginia Court of Appeals approves entry when the officer knows of the existence of an arrest warrant, even if he does not personally have it.