Week 6 case brief
A legal brief on the U.S Supreme Court ruling in Kentucky v. King, 563 U.S (2011)
Police followed a suspected drug dealer to an apartment complex in Lexington, Kentucky. They knocked loudly on the door of the apartment. Smell of marijuana was eminent from outside the door. They proceeded to announce their entry and knocked again loudly on the door. While outside, they heard noise emanating from the house. They believed that the noises were due to evidence destruction. They announced their intention to gain access to the apartment once more and proceeded to kick open the door and found the suspect and other people. They saw drugs in plain view, plus other evidence after a continued search.
Police did not have a warrant of entry into the apartment but proceeded to access the premises forcibly, after announcing their intention of entry, though. In court, the respondent denied the intention of destroying evidence. The Circuit Court denied his motion. The Court argued that given the exigent circumstances, warrantless entry into the premises was justified in order to prevent destruction of evidence. He entered a conditional guilty plea and reserved his right to appeal the court’s ruling. The Kentucky Court of Appeal affirmed his plea. The Supreme Court of Kentucky reversed this, assuming that exigent circumstances rule applied and that the search was warrantless and could have led to the respondent’s intention to destroy evidence. According to the police, there was need to move into the premises quickly to prevent possible destruction of evidence since they had all reasons to believe that that the respondent was engaging in the process of evidence destruction.
The exigent circumstances rule applied since police failed to create the exigency by violating the Fourth Amendment, which requires that all searches and seizures be done reasonably. A warrantless search may be presumed reasonable, if the exigencies of the situation make the need to enforce the law a priority, under the fourth Amendment. Consider United States v. Ventresca, 380 U.S. 102, 107(1965). An exigency of this nature can for example be prevention of evidence destruction, like was in this case. It is important to note that the exigent circumstances may not apply if the police deliberately create the exigency and proceed forth to carry out an invalid search, contravening the Fourth amendment, and infringing on suspects constitutional right, just to avoid the requirement of an entry warrant. In such scenarios, the exigency circumstances rule does not apply.
It is prudent to note that police announced their intention to enter the apartment since smell of marijuana was emanating from the premise. Upon knocking and identification of their intention, noises apparent of evidence destruction were heard. Another knock and announcement for entry was made, with no response. As a result, the police kicked open the door and gained access. Evidence was obtained, and more upon further search, and seized. The police did not have a search warrant though. But according to the fourth amendment, a warrantless search is objective if the need for enforcing the law over rides everything else. The respondent’s rights were infringed because there was no search warrant for his house.
The Supreme Court overruled the Court of Appeal’s ruling arguing that although the officers acted in good faith the exigent circumstances rule could not justify their warrantless search. According to the Supreme Court, the police should have reasoned that the moment they announced their entry and announced their presence, the suspect was going to destroy the evidence.