SCOTUS Okays Warrantless Search of Apartment that Smells of Dope

SCOTUS Okays Warrantless Search of Apartment that Smells of Dope

By Nathan Koppel

In an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court today ruled that Kentucky police were okay to kick in the door of an apartment that smelled of pot and was suspected of harboring a drug suspect.

The police did not have a warrant to enter the apartment, and it turns out the suspect who they were chasing was not in the apartment. But once inside the police found marijuana and cocaine in plain view and arrested one of the inhabitants.

The Kentucky Supreme Court held that the search was illegal.  But the Supremes reversed, holding that the police could enter the apartment without a warrant, because after they knocked on the door and announced their presence they heard  noises inside that sounded as if  drug-related evidence was about to be destroyed.

“Exigent circumstances, including the need to prevent the destruction of evidence, permit police to conduct an otherwise permissible search without first obtaining a warrant,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority.

Here’s the ruling in Kentucky v. King and here’s an overview of the ruling from the ABA Journal.

In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg said, “the Court today arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases. In lieu of presenting their evidence to a neutral magistrate, police officers may now knock, listen, then break the door down, nevermind that they had ample time to obtain a warrant.”

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