Police officers who followed a suspect into his apartment complex were legally justified to knock down the door of an apartment that belonged to a different individual, when they detected a strong odor of marijuana emanating from the apartment and heard sounds of evidence being destroyed after announcing their presence, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled. In upholding the warrantless search of the apartment, the Supreme Court ruled that the search was permissible because of the “exigent circumstances,” an exception to the warrant requirement provided by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Pursuant to the Fourth Amendment, searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable. However, this presumption may be overcome when the circumstances surrounding the search show that there was a compelling need for a warrantless entry into a residence. Examples of such exigency include the need to prevent the imminent bodily harm or death of an individual or destruction of evidence. At issue in this case was whether the exigent circumstances rule applied when police, by knocking on the door of a residence and announcing their presence, caused the occupants to attempt to destroy evidence. The Court held that the exigent circumstances rule applied when the police did not create the exigency by engaging or threatening to engage in conduct that would have violated the Fourth Amendment.
A particular troubling aspect of the Court’s decision is the fact that it expressly overruled additional requirement imposed by some lower courts prohibiting police officers from deliberately creating the exigent circumstances with the bad faith intent to avoid the warrant requirement. From now on, the police may attempt to routinely avoid the warrant requirement even in cases when they have sufficient time to seek a warrant by relying on some exigent circumstances. After all, knocking, listening, and breaking down the door of a residence is the fastest way to enter into a home of another despite the fact that that person may refuse to open the door or allow police officers get inside without a warrant.
This office handles all matters related to unconstitutional searches and seizures and suppression of evidence in San Diego County. For a free consultation, contact us at (619) 232-5122 or: firstname.lastname@example.org
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