The Supreme Court decided in an 8-to-1 decision that police have the authority to break into your house if they suspect you’re destroying drugs. The Chicago Tribune brings us part of Justice Alito’s important decision: “‘When law enforcement officers who are not armed with a warrant knock on a door, they do no more than any private citizen may do,’ he wrote. A resident need not respond, he added. But the sounds of people moving and perhaps toilets being flushed could justify police entering without a warrant, he added.” The court’s decision definitely raises concern with the protection of the 4th Amendment — that’s the one that limits searches and seizures.
The case started in Kentucky when police attempted to bust a crack dealer. The dealer sold drugs to an informer and the police tried to arrest the man, only to have him run away. The man ran into an apartment building and the cops had to guess which apartment he was in. They smelled pot in one of the rooms and guessed that it was him. They knocked frantically and heard people inside so they said they were entering. The police broke down the door to find another man, Hollis King, inside smoking pot (he also had cocaine on his table). The police arrested King and put him on trial, where he received a sentence of 11 years in prison.
King appealed the case up to the Supreme Court under the pretenses that the police had no right to enter his apartment. Justice Ginsberg agrees with King as the lone dissenting opinion. She wrote yesterday that the court’s decision “arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the 4th Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases.”