In a landmark decision, the United States Supreme Court in Kentuckly v, King, Docket No.09-1272, held that warrantless searches are valid so long as a police officer knocks loudly, announces themselves and hears evidence being destroyed.
The facts at issue in this case are straightforward: Police officers were attempting to track down a suspected drug dealer when they smelled marijuana coming from behind an apartment door. The officers knocked loudly on the door, announced their presence and then proceeded to kick the door in after they heard sounds consistent with the destruction of evidence. Upon their entry, they noticed drugs in plain view. The defendants in this case moved to suppress the evidence on the basis that the warrantless search was invalid. Although the search was originally deemed valid, the Supreme Court of Kentucky determined that the search was improper.
In its ruling yesterday, the United States Supreme Court reversed the prior decision of the Supreme Court of Kentucky. In doing so however, the Court made a point to state that entry without a warrant to prevent the destruction of evidence is only reasonable under the Fourth Amendment when the officer "did not create the exigency by engaging or threatening to engage in conduct that violates the Fourth Amendment." See majority opinion at p. 8.
Justice Ginsburg, the lone dissenting Justice, felt that the Court's decision severly impaired the protections afforded by our Constitution. In particular, Justice Ginsburg rhetorically asked, "[h]ow 'secure' do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for evidence of unlawful activity?" See dissenting opinion at p. 3.
Ambrosio & Tomczak handles a wide array of criminal defense matters.