The United States Supreme Court on Warrantless Searches
Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court expanded the ability for the police to enter and search homes without warrants. In Kentucky v. King, No. 09-1272 , found at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/09-1272.pdf, the Court upheld a warrantless search of an apartment where the police smelled marijuana and believed that evidence was being destroyed inside.
Although the United States Constitution requires a warrant for the police to search a home, there are a number of exceptions to that requirement. One of those exceptions is whether “exigent” circumstances exist. In King, the Court found that such circumstances existed. Police had viewed a “drug buy” and saw the offender run into an apartment building. The officers notified other law enforcement who did not know if the offender entered the apartment on the right or on the left. Those officers smelled marijuana outside the apartment on the left. They knocked on the door and announced that they were the police. They heard noise inside the apartment and believed evidence was being destroyed. After forcing their way inside, they found the defendant smoking marijuana as well as cocaine.
The police had entered the wrong apartment; the person they were seeking was in the other apartment. The United States Supreme Court upheld the search of defendant’s apartment, justifying the search by stating that the police could find exigent circumstances and enter without a warrant if they believe evidence is being destroyed