We’ve all seen it in the movies; “cop” bangs on door, people inside scatter and hide weapons/drugs, someone answers the door and “cops” search the home. Pretty standard right? This is not what happened in a recent case in Kentucky…
According to an article from the Orlando Sentinel, Kentucky police were following a man who they believed to be a drug dealer. The man went into an apartment building but the law enforcement officials lost track of which unit he entered. The police smelled marijuana coming from one door and knocked on it. They heard rummaging and announced they were coming in. They did not find the drug dealer but instead found Hollis King with marijuana and cocaine. King convicted of drug trafficking but later his conviction was overturned by the Kentucky Supreme Court accusing the officers of violating his 4th Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure). The U.S Supreme Court then heard an appeal from prosecutors and reversed the ruling. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr said
“…the police conduct in this case ‘was entirely lawful,’ and they were justified in breaking down the door to prevent the destruction of the evidence.”
The Supreme Court passed a ruling allowing law enforcement to enter homes without a search warrant. If law officers knock loudly on the door and hear suspicious noises coming from inside, they can enter the home without a warrant or consent. Before this ruling, the law stood that officials could only enter the home without a search warrant if they had consent from the owner or if there was an emergency situation.
In the article, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argues
“the court’s approach arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the 4th Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases. She said the police did not face a ‘genuine emergency’ and should not have been allowed to enter the apartment without a warrant.”
This new law could potentially complicate the job of criminal defense lawyers because in the past, there was a logical defense when police didn’t have the explicit right to enter the home of the suspect. Now, we may come across the gray area of what was thought to have been heard and what the accused says happened. The line of violating the 4th Amendment could become blurred.
The Supreme Court arrived at an 8-1 decision allowing law enforcement officials to enter without a warrant if they are in pursuit of someone with drugs, knock loudly and can hear the destruction of evidence.