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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Supremes Say Police Can Create Conditions To Enter Home Without A Warrant

From Techdirt:
We've been discussing various ways that our government and the courts have been slowly chipping away at the 4th Amendment, what with warrantless wiretaps, searching laptops, TSA agents groping people, etc. And the Supreme Court just took a huge chunk out of the 4th Amendment in saying that police can raid homes without a warrant if there are 'exigent circumstances' -- even if those 'exigent circumstances' are created by the police themselves.

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.

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