*The Fourth Amendment (U.S. Constitution) guarantees individuals the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
One’s right to privacy and to be free from a warrantless intrusion are essential.
In U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Kentucky v. Hollis Deshaun King (No. 09-1272. Argued January 12, 2011-Decided May 16, 2011), the court upheld a warrantless search based on exigent circumstances.
In Kentucky v. Hollis Deshaun King, police officers were involved in a controlled drug buy for crack cocaine near an apartment complex. After the transaction, the suspect left on foot and entered the apartment complex.
The suspect entered an apartment unit, but officers did not know which apartment unit the suspect entered. There were two doors, one on the right, and one on the left. Officers smelled marijuana smoke coming from the unit on the left, and knocked on the door, while announcing their presence. Officers heard people moving inside of the apartment, but no one answered the door.
Officers kicked in the door of the apartment, and entered. Officers found drugs inside, and King was charged trafficking in marijuana, first degree trafficking of a controlled substance, and second degree persistent felony offender status. Officers entered the wrong unit. The suspect from the controlled drug buy was later apprehended in the apartment on the right.
Typically, prior to searching a home, officers must have a warrant. One exception to the warrant requirement is if exigent circumstances exist. Prior cases have found that exigent circumstances are those that involve an imminent risk of death or serious injury, or danger that evidence would be destroyed, or that a person may escape. In this case, prior to the knocking, the occupants of the unit on the left were probably unaware of the officer’s presence. In fact, they were smoking marijuana with officers standing outside of the front door. Officers could have obtained a warrant prior to entering the unit.
The opinion was an 8-1 majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was the only justice to dissent. Justice Ginsberg wrote, “How ‘secure’ do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for evidence of unlawful activity?”
Jameika Williams Mangum is an Attorney at the Mangum Law Firm, LLC in the Chicago area. The Mangum Law Firm, LLC is a general practice firm with a focus on Criminal, Civil, and Family Law. For more information, please visit www.themangumlawfirm.com or www.rollingmeadowsattorney.com.
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Jameika Williams Mangum
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