Facts: An undercover police officer watched a controlled deal from inside his unmarked police car. When the deal was over, the undercover police officer radioed for uniformed police officers to move in on the suspect, who was heading towards a breezeway in an apartment complex. When the police officers arrived at the breezeway, they heard a door shut and they could also smell the distinct odor of burnt marijuana. At the end of the breezeway there were two apartments, but the officers didn’t know which apartment the suspect entered.
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The undercover police officer radioed that the suspect entered the apartment on the right, but the officers didn’t hear that because they had left their cars. Since the officers could smell the marijuana odor coming from the apartment on the left, they went to that door. The police knocked on the door and loudly made their presence known by saying “ This is the police” or “ Police, police, police. ” When they started banging on the door, the police could hear inside what sounded like a scuffle and the destroying of evidence.
After announcing that they would enter the apartment, the officers kicked down the door. They saw three people in the room: Hollis King (part time resident), King’s girlfriend (to whom the apartment was leased to), and a resident smoking marijuana. During a protective sweep, police found marijuana and powdered cocaine. In a following search, they also discovered crack cocaine, cash, and drug paraphernalia. A Kentucky grand jury charged King with trafficking marijuana and trafficking of a controlled substance.
King filed motion to suppress the evidence found in the warrantless search, but the trial court denied the motion. King entered a conditionally guilty plea, under which he reserved the right to appeal the denial of his suppression motion. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision, saying that “ exigent circumstances justified the warrantless entry because the police reasonably believed that evidence would be destroyed.”
The Supreme Court of Kentucky reversed this decision, stating that “ the exigent circumstances exception could not justify the search. ” The U. S. Supreme granted certiorari. Issue: Is it justifiable that exigent circumstances, including the need to prevent the destruction of evidence, should allow officers to execute a search without first obtaining a warrant?
Holding: Yes. Reasoning: The U. S. Supreme Court decided that exigent circumstances are “ reasonable exceptions” to the Fourth Amendment, which states that all searches and seizures must be reasonable. The U. S. Supreme Court has noted that there are several exigencies that may justify the search of a home without a warrant. This includes emergency aid, when in hot pursuit of a fleeing suspect and, in this case, the need to prevent the imminent destruction of evidence.