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Supreme Court gives police a new entryway into homes

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posted on May, 17 2011 @ 01:07 PM
Keep your chin up.

posted on May, 17 2011 @ 05:36 PM
As advised by ownbestenemy, we should be cautious interpreting this decision, and not rush to conclusions. I see a lot of emotional and heated responses, and that is never helpful in understanding complex and nuanced issues such as this one.

I want to, up front, disclose that I am absolutely and completely against the “war on drugs,” but this case and decision must be interpreted in light of what the law presently is, not what we would like it to be.

After reading the posts so far, one crucial point that no one apparently knows, or mentioned, is immediately obvious: the Supreme Court didn’t rule the officers’ conduct in this case was lawful. Some of you that are visibly upset with this decision might want to read this statement again.

It seems to me, as well, that a lot of members are commenting without any, or with little, knowledge of the context of the case. We’re not talking about police officers randomly knocking on people’s doors and barging in when they hear noises.

The police set up a controlled buy of crack coc aine outside an apartment complex. An undercover police officer witnessed the deal take place, the suspect left and moved quickly toward the breezeway of an apartment building. At that point the undercover officer radioed to uniformed officers to “hurry up and get there” before the suspect entered an apartment.

Just as the officers entered the breezeway, they heard a door shut and detected a very strong odor of burnt marijuana. At the end of the breezeway, the officers saw two apartments, one on the left and one on the right, and they did not know which apartment the suspect had entered.

They smelled marijuana outside the apartment on the left, so they “knocked loudly, and announced their presence. As soon as [they] began knocking, they heard noises coming from the apartment.” The officers believed the noises “were consistent with the destruction of evidence.” At that point, the officers announced that they “were going to make entry inside the apartment,” and they kicked in the door.

The officers entered the apartment, and they found three people in the front room: Hollis King, his girlfriend, and a guest who was smoking marijuana. The officers performed a protective sweep of the apartment during which they saw marijuana and powder coc aine in plain view. In a subsequent search, they also discovered crack coc aine, cash, and drug paraphernalia.

This was, however, the wrong apartment. Police eventually entered the apartment on the right and inside they found the suspected drug dealer who was the initial target of their investigation.

King was charged with trafficking in marijuana, first­ degree trafficking in a controlled substance, and second­ degree persistent felony offender status. King argued the evidence from the warrantless search had to be thrown out. And this is ultimately the contention in this case.

Normally police needs a warrant, or consent, to enter someone’s house. But they can enter a house without a warrant if there are “exigent circumstances.” Typically these include the belief that someone is in danger or in need of medical help, or, for instance, noises indicative that evidence is being destroyed are heard.

There was some uncertainty to what the test for these exceptions was, so the Supreme Court, in this case, basically set a bright line rule to be used when analyzing and deciding similar cases and circumstances. “[A] warrantless entry based on exigent circumstances is reasonable when the police did not create the exigency by engaging or threatening to engage in conduct violating the Fourth Amendment.

By knocking on the door and merely announcing their presence the officers weren’t “engaged or threatening to engage” in conduct violating the 4th Amendment. That is perfectly legal conduct.

If, however, prior to the noise they heard, the officers had demanded entry into the apartment, then their conduct would be offensive to the 4th Amendment, even if they had heard the same kind of noises they did here after their demand to enter.

If King, or anyone else, hadn’t responded to the officers, or simply refused to open the door, then the officers had no right to enter his house. It was the alleged destruction of evidence that made the officers entry permissible, because it created an exigent circumstance, the officers smelled marijuana and they reasonably thought their suspect might be in there.

To conclude, and coming back to my initial point, the Supreme Court didn’t rule the officers’ conduct in this case was lawful, the Court simply defined the rule to be used when analyzing this and other similar cases. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the lower court to determine if there was indeed any “exigent circumstances,” based on the facts of the case, and apply the rule the Court defined.

Overall, I find the rule the Court defined, at least in theory, to be a sensible one.

If this decision opens the door — excuse the pun — to more possible police abuse, I don’t know, but if it does, it’s always possible that the Court can deal with that then.

posted on May, 17 2011 @ 06:25 PM
reply to post by aptness

And anyone wanna take bets on how this will be abused?

They will always be able to make a case on why they should be able to bend or break the rules. There has to be a line the people draw and say no more.

While I think we crossed that line a long time ago, this case is as deserving as any to make a stand.

posted on May, 17 2011 @ 06:42 PM
reply to post by Wolf321

So in essence you’re saying that it was a bad decision because of possible future abuse? Isn’t that a possibility with every decision?

Since none of us can predict the future, don’t we have to limit our analysis to whether it was well decided based on precedent, the legal rationale and, in this case, the reasonableness of the rule created?

posted on May, 17 2011 @ 06:49 PM
reply to post by aptness

Yes, they do have to take into account the future. Courts have to consider the precedent being set when making a decision.

It would be better to say what happened in this case was wrong, and then let the legislators write a new law to cover the circumstance, than to say as things are they can be done this way. Especially in this case, finding someone using some drugs is far less an issue than potentially multiple instances of cops barging into anyone's home for whatever they see fit.

posted on May, 17 2011 @ 06:55 PM
Anyone noticed that this law inevitably targets the poor, who live in apartments and small homes, over the rich, who surely have enough space to be far away from hearing range when the knock comes?

Also, drug dealers sell hundreds, if not thousands of pounds of drugs. We're talking about large bricks and bags of material. What real drug dealer could possibly flush or destroy his inventory in time to avoid this situation? Obviously, the only people it could reasonably apply to are poor, small-time crooks and addicts.

posted on May, 17 2011 @ 07:00 PM

Originally posted by Wolf321
Yes, they do have to take into account the future. Courts have to consider the precedent being set when making a decision.
Undoubtedly. Your suggestion though is that the Court disregarded the implications for the future altogether.

It would be better to say what happened in this case was wrong, and then let the legislators write a new law to cover the circumstance, than to say as things are they can be done this way.
They didn’t have to, and that’s not really what was in question for the Court to decide.

The Court found the rule the lower courts applied were confusing, different from court to court, or inaccurate, so they defined the rule and remanded to the lower court to decide the case based on the facts.

The lower court could very well determine the officers’ conduct was unlawful.

edit on 17-5-2011 by aptness because: (no reason given)

posted on May, 17 2011 @ 07:01 PM

Originally posted by Caji316
Next thing they will be doing is breaking down your bedroom door because they thought they heard "Hornyness" going on behind it....Will it ever stop???


Loud sex enough for cops to search your home

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