4th Amendment? What 4th Amendment? Supremes Say Police Can Create Conditions To Enter Home Without A Warrant
from the did-they-really-say-that? dept
The law, to date, had been that police cannot enter a home without a warrant unless they had both (a) probable cause and (b) "exigent circumstances" in which getting a warrant would not make sense. In this case, police were searching for a drug dealer who had gone into an apartment complex. Outside of one apartment, they smelled marijuana -- which created probable cause. At this point, they should have obtained a warrant. Instead, they banged on the door and shouted police. At which point they heard a scramble inside, and busted in the door, claiming that they believed the scramble was the possible destruction of the drugs. The argument then was that this noise -- even though it was entirely created due to police action -- represented exigent circumstances that allowed them to bust in the door without a warrant. The Kentucky Supreme Court said that while the noise might be exigent circumstances, since it was illegally created by the police, it could not be used.
Tragically, the Supreme Court -- by an 8-to-1 vote -- has now disagreed, saying that this is perfectly consistent with the 4th Amendment. With all due respect to the 8 Justices and the Court, I can't see how that's reasonable at all. This sets up a dreadful situation which will be abused regularly by law enforcement. It lets them create yet another situation where they may avoid oversight, by creating their own exigent circumstances, and then using that as an excuse for avoiding a warrant and any required oversight or limitations. I believe that Justice Ginsburg's dissent is much more compelling. Her dissent points out that exigent circumstances are only supposed to be used in very rare circumstances when getting a warrant is not possible or practical. Yet, in this case, the police easily could have secured a warrant quickly upon smelling marijuana.
That heavy burden has not been carried here. There was little risk that drug-related evidence would have been destroyed had the police delayed the search pending a magistrate’s authorization. As the Court recognizes, "[p]ersons in possession of valuable drugs are unlikely to destroy them unless they fear discovery by the police." ... Nothing in the record shows that, prior to the knock at the apartment door, the occupants were apprehensive about police proximity.In fact, she notes that "Home intrusions, the Court has said, are indeed 'the chief evil against which . . .the Fourth Amendment is directed.'" So it seems positively ridiculous to claim that such a home invasion is acceptable under the 4th Amendment. This is a tragically bad ruling by the Supreme Court that will have massive and dangerous consequences. We already have law enforcement pushing the boundaries of individual privacy rights, and now they have even more tools to take that further.