Monday, May 16, 2011
Supreme Court Says Police Can Kick Down Anydoor Anytime
"The U.S. Supreme Court has made it significantly easier for police to force their way into a home without a warrant. On Monday, the court, by an 8-1 vote, upheld the warrantless search of an apartment after police smelled marijuana and feared that those inside were destroying incriminating evidence.
The Constitution bars warrantless searches except in certain circumstances — for example, when police fear that evidence of a crime is being destroyed. The question in this case was whether police, by themselves creating such emergency circumstances, unconstitutionally evade the warrant requirement.
The case came from Lexington, Ky., where police pursuing a drug suspect banged on the door of an apartment where they thought they smelled marijuana. After loudly identifying themselves, police heard movement inside, and suspecting that evidence was being destroyed, kicked in the door. There they found Hollis Deshaun King, smoking marijuana. Police also found cocaine inside the apartment.
As it turned out, King was not the suspect police had been looking for, but the drug evidence in the apartment was more than enough to charge him with multiple crimes. King was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
But the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the drugs found in the apartment could not be used as evidence because the only emergency circumstances were those created by the police loudly alerting those inside. The state court said that instead of banging on the door and letting the inhabitants know the police were there, the police should have requested a warrant, a procedure that usually takes only a matter of minutes.
The U.S. Supreme Court, however, disagreed with the state court. The justices said that the Fourth Amendment bars unreasonable searches, and here the police acted reasonably. Writing for the court majority, Justice Samuel Alito noted that when occupants respond to a police knock on the door, they are not required to grant police permission to enter their homes. But, he said, if there is no response, and police hear movement inside that suggests destruction of evidence, they are justified in breaking in." read more - via npr