In an 8-1 decision Monday, the Supreme Court said that police did not violate the Fourth Amendment barring “unreasonable searches and seizures” when they smelled marijuana outside a Lexington, Kentucky apartment, knock loudly, announced themselves and — after hearing what they thought was the sound of evidence being destroyed — entered without a warrant.
The case, Kentucky v. King, stemmed from an incident where police followed a suspected drug dealer into an apartment complex but entered another man’s apartment after smelling the drugs. According to The New York Times, the majority opinion “assumed there was good reason to think evidence was being destroyed, and asked only whether the conduct of the police had impermissibly caused the destruction.
The Kentucky Supreme Court suppressed the evidence, saying that any risk of drugs being destroyed was the result of the decision by the police to knock and announce themselves rather than obtain a warrant.
The United States Supreme Court reversed that decision on Monday, saying the police had acted lawfully and that was all that mattered. The defendant, Hollis D. King, had choices other than destroying evidence, Justice Alito wrote.
The only dissenting Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, wrote that the court “today arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases.”
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Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com