May 17, 2011
Kentucky v. King Fourth Amendment / Warrantless Search / Exigent Circumstances - Cop Created Exigency and Destruction of Evidence
Facts: After a controlled buy with a snitch, the police follow a suspected drug dealer to an apartment building. The police heard a door shut, but did not know exactly what apartment the suspected dealer entered. The police stood outside both and smelled marijuana. The police knocked and then claimed they heard noises, moving furniture, which sounded like destruction of evidence. Without a warrant, without consent, without knowledge of the exact apartment, without knowing the if suspected drug dealer actually entered the apartment, the police busted into the apartment - the wrong apartment (where unfortunately folks were getting high). Upon entry, the police claim they saw drugs in plain view. The prosecution argued the police needed to prevent the destruction of evidence, and thus, argued exigent circumstances relieved the officers of the burden of getting a warrant as is usually required by the Fourth Amendment of the United States. The defense argued the police created their the exigency, and thus, could not enter on that basis.
Issue: Whether the officers acted reasonably when they entered a home after hearing noises consistent with destruction of evidence or did the police create the exigency?
Held: Yes, they can enter sans any warrant, and no, the police did not create the exigency.
Reasoning: Justice Alito wrote the opinion, and unfortunately only Justice Ginsberg dissented. Justice Alito reasoned because the police did not cause the exigency themselves, they could enter based upon exigent circumstances. The Kentucky Supreme Court found the opposite – that the police conduct created the exigency. The Court reversed the Supreme Court of Kentucky:
Despite the welter of tests devised by the lower courts, the answer to the question presented in this case follows directly and clearly from the principle that permits warrantless searches in the first place. As previously noted, warrantless searches are allowed when the circumstances make it reasonable, within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, to dispense with the warrant requirement. Therefore, the answer to the question before us is that the exigent circumstances rule justifies a warrantless search when the conduct of the police preceding the exigency is reasonable in the same sense. Where, as here, the police did not create the exigency by engaging or threatening to engage in conduct that violates the Fourth Amendment, warrantless entry to prevent the destruction of evidence is reasonable and thus allowed.
A couple of points: 1) this whole body of law based upon the reasonableness of police officers assumes they actually testify truthful, which a cop never does. Police officers know exactly what to say and when to say it to allow unconstitutional conduct; 2) Justice Alito and the other strict constructionalists and original intenters, simply ignore the Fourth Amendment’s mandate for a warrant, and turn this exigency exception into the rule based upon whether the officer acted reasonably; 3) These same original intenters always profuse a love for state courts. The original intenters and strict constructionalist lecture on and on about the sanctity of state court proceedings and rulings when a Federal Court reverses a state court, especially on death penalty case. The same original intents disregard the state court sanctity when the state court actually gives meaning and life to the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.