Supreme Court hears case on home searches by police

By Terrapinzflyer · Jan 12, 2011 · ·
  1. Terrapinzflyer
    WASHINGTON — Justice Elena Kagan cut to the heart of the matter during arguments Wednesday before the Supreme Court over when police may barge into a home and seize drugs or other evidence of possible wrongdoing.

    "One of the points of the Fourth Amendment is to ensure that when people search your home they have a warrant, and, of course, there are exceptions to that," she said. "But if there is one place where the warrant requirement has real force, it is in the home."

    Wednesday's case from Kentucky tested the strength of the constitutional dictate that police enter a person's home only after showing grounds to suspect a crime is underway and obtaining a warrant from a neutral magistrate judge.

    The dispute turns on an exception that arises when police believe evidence is being destroyed or some other emergency is underway. Wednesday's question was whether police may enter a home based on those "exigent," or urgent, circumstances if officers have essentially created those circumstances, for example, by causing occupants to panic and move to try to destroy evidence. (A common scenario raised Wednesday involved suspects who hear police at the door and quickly flush drugs down the toilet.)

    The case at hand began in October 2005 after police in Lexington, Ky, entered an apartment building looking for a man who officers said had sold crack cocaine to an undercover informant and then fled.

    In the apartment breeze-way, officers heard a door slam but did not know which of two units the dealer had entered. They said a marijuana odor was coming from one of the doors.

    Officers knocked there, announced that they were the police, and then broke down the door. Police found Hollis King and two other people inside with marijuana and cocaine. The dealer whom police were seeking was not in that apartment; he was in the other unit.

    King objected to the evidence from his apartment being used at trial because police lacked a warrant to enter. The judge rejected his move to suppress, and King was sentenced to 11 years for trafficking of a controlled substance and marijuana possession.

    On appeal, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the evidence should not have been used because police did not have a warrant and that the emergency circumstances police cited were of their own making.

    The state court said officers would have foreseen that their tactics at the door could have caused noise and commotion inside.

    The officers had justified the entry by saying they heard noises that led them to believe the occupants might be getting rid of illegal drugs.

    Backing Kentucky's appeal are the federal government and 34 states. Kentucky officials say the lower court ruling would impinge police action and reward criminal behavior.

    Kentucky assistant attorney General Joshua Farley told the justices Wednesday that the marijuana odor coming from the apartment would have given the officers "probable cause" to obtain a warrant from a magistrate judge. But, he said, after an officer knocked and sounds of the possible destruction of evidence were heard, the situation became urgent.

    He said the officers were pursuing the drug dealer and thought that he and others could be behind the apartment door getting rid of the cocaine.

    Representing King, Jamesa Drake told the court, "The odor of burnt marijuana, coupled with (an officer's) cursory and equivocal testimony about the sounds of movement … is insufficient to establish exigent circumstances."

    She argued that police violate the Fourth Amendment if officers have conveyed "the impression that entry is imminent and inevitable."

    As the justices struggled with the proper test for when police are exempt from the warrant requirement, some such as Kagan emphasized the importance of preserving Fourth Amendment safeguards against unreasonable searches and seizures.

    She asked whether all police would have to say is "We heard noise."

    Justice Sonia Sotomayor similarly suggested that Kentucky officials' line of argument may undercut the warrant requirement.

    "Aren't we just saying they can walk in whenever they smell marijuana, whenever they think drugs are on the other side (of the door)?"

    Other justices, however, sounded more sympathetic to the position of the police.

    Chief Justice John Roberts noted that officers did not demand entry but rather acted when they heard noises that suggested evidence might be destroyed.

    Justice Antonin Scalia, most vigorous in his challenge to the defendant's argument, said, "There are a lot of constraints on law enforcement, and the one thing it has going for it is that criminals are stupid."

    Scalia then proceeded to offer a scenario under which wiser apartment occupants would have told police to go get a warrant and would not have made any noise to raise suspicions.

    Drake rejected his premise and said, "There is no difference between what happened in this case and how an innocent person would respond."

    The U.S. Justice Department has urged the court to rule that when police act lawfully the warrantless search is proper.

    "This court has never required police officers to abstain from lawful investigatory conduct or obtain a warrant when it is foreseeable that a suspect will react illegally to a lawful request for… cooperation," government lawyers told the court in their brief.

    A decision in Kentucky v. King is likely by the end of June when the justices recess for the summer.

    January 12, 2010

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  1. Killa Weigha
    And they've been well coached on how to get around them all.
    So stupid people aren't protected by the Constitution and it's amendments? Dick.
  2. Spucky
    U.S. Supreme Court to Decide: Does Smelling Marijuana Justify Warrantless Police Raid

    U.S. Supreme Court to Decide: Does Smelling Marijuana Justify Warrantless Police Raids

    Swat raids and paramilitary civilian police forces threaten our beliefs and our way of life.

    In the United States many people still believe that our homes are private and as such should be free from government intrusion. Further many believe we have the right to defend our home and family from unlawful intruders and that the constitution guarantees this. After all we fight wars in the name of freedom and protecting our god-given as well as civil rights even now. It appears we are in danger of losing our fourth amendment rights, and once gone they may be gone forever.

    The implications for Americans are huge. For some time now we have seen increasing use of militarized SWAT teams across the country invading American homes, even killing our citizens and their pets on what looks to be the flimsiest of excuses many times. Countless innocent people have been killed or injured during these raids.
    According to the New York Times,
    “More than 60 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the police were not entitled to enter a residence without a warrant merely because they smelled burning opium, this has been the law of the land since.”
    The Supreme Court of the United States recently took up the issue in arguments of a case about what the police were entitled to do upon smelling marijuana outside a Kentucky apartment. Concerns have been raised and there is a very real possibility that the court may be poised to vacate the previous ruling, requiring police to get a search warrant before entering our homes.

    “Aren’t we just simply saying they can just walk in whenever they smell marijuana, whenever they think there’s drugs on the other side?” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor during the recent arguments. “Why do we even bother giving them a warrant?”

    The current precedent requiring search warrants was established by the Court in 1948 with Johnson v. United States: The smell of opium is insufficient cause to enter a premises without a search warrant.
    Justice Jackson delivered the opinion of the court: “No reason is offered for not obtaining a search warrant except the inconvenience to the officers and some slight delay necessary to prepare papers and present the evidence to a magistrate. These are never very convincing reasons and, in these circumstances, certainly are not enough to bypass the constitutional requirement. ”

    There are literally thousands of militarized raids every year (perhaps as many as 40,000). Even when police get a search warrant which is not very difficult these days they often misrepresent the facts or raid the wrong house terrorizing innocent families including children like this case in Spring Valley New York last week.

    Police Terrorize 13-Year-Old Girl In Botched Pot Bust.
    Police conducting drug raids early in the morning woke a family dragging them out bed, even pointed a machine gun at a 13-year-old girl and threatened to shoot the family poodle… big problem and this happens often in these full military type raids they had the wrong house and the wrong family. Luckily this time no one was killed but many other times the innocent victims of the police raid were not so lucky. Here is a list of a few of those not so lucky victims of police para military raids.
    In the recent Spring Valley raid, David McKay said “Their guns were drawn, they were screaming ‘Where’s Michael, Where’s Michael. ” At least 10 heavily armed officers had stormed the house at 5:30am. McKay’s daughter was so terrified and traumatized he had to take her to Nyack Hospital, for treatment after she had an asthma attack and fainted following the ordeal.
    Mckay is quoted in an article by Radley Balko on January 13 2011.
    “They pulled me outside in the freezing cold in my underwear, manhandle my wife, point a gun at my daughter and they won’t even tell me what they are doing in my house,” said McKay. “It was terrifying and humiliating beyond belief.”

    Thirteen law enforcement agencies (LEA’s) were involved in the raids. This was just one of the many joint federal/local drug sweeps for pot that occur daily around the U.S. In Hawaii county we recently saw something similar in the coordinated raids again by 13 agencies, against Roger Christie’s THC ministry and the “Green 14″. In that case the government brought in a C-140 Coast Guard cargo plane specifically to whisk the 14 defendants off the Big Island to federal detention in Honolulu.

    The amount of money they spend on these raids is hard to pin down but mind boggling when you start adding it up. Christie still has not gotten a trial of any kind yet is being held without bail as a “
    for a marijuana crime, more than 6 months after police found a measly 2 pounds of marijuana, and $21,000.00.

    That’s it – after a 2 year investigation by the 13 law enforcement agencies – at a cost that already runs in the millions of dollars – 2 pounds of marijuana. In the recent New York raid as police were preparing to leave, McKay and his bewildered family asked them again what they were doing and why they entered the house. “They wouldn’t say,” “All they would say was ‘You’ll read about it in the paper tomorrow.’ ”

    In the search warrant case now before the U.S. Supreme court, police officers in Kentucky were looking for a suspect who they claim had sold cocaine to an informant. They further claim they smelled burning marijuana coming from an apartment, knocked loudly and announced themselves. That according to an article by Adam Liptak, published January 12, 2011 in the New York Times, and entitled Justices Look Again at How Police May Search Homes.

    The article reports that police claim to have heard sounds from inside the apartment, leading them to believe evidence was being destroyed, so they kicked in the door. While they did find marijuana and cocaine, the suspect in the original cocaine case was not there. The Kentucky Supreme Court sided with the defendants and suppressed the evidence. The court found that any risk of drugs being destroyed was the result of the decision by the police to knock and announce themselves rather than to obtain a warrant. Now the state of Kentucky and the federal government want the U.S. Supreme court to overturn Kentucky’s Supreme court ruling. Essentially the government is asking the court to take away the 4th amendment rights of all Americans.

    In Mr. Liptak’s article he states Justice Sotomayor was even more direct.
    “Aren’t we just doing away with ‘Johnson’?” she asked.
    He also points out that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked why the police could not simply roam the hallways of apartment buildings, sniffing; knock whenever they smell marijuana; then break in if they hear something suspicious. All in all it’s a great article that points out that the other Justices seem inclined to rule in the government’s favor. If that happens we will lose even more of our ever-eroding rights in this country, and can look forward to many more military-style swat raids terrorizing families around the nation.

    We continue to see ever increasing militarization of civilian law enforcement in this country, including Hawaii county, where I live. This has led to a dramatic increase in paramilitary police units (SWAT) being used for routine police work. The most common use of SWAT teams today in Hawaii county and around the nation is to serve drug warrants, usually with forced, unannounced entry into our homes. A large number of those raids are for marijuana. Swat was originally brought about to be used in hostage situations, but has been co-opted to gradually militarize civilian police departments over the last few decades. As we see, the result has been the erosion of the civil liberties we enjoy, as we have moved to the point of becoming a virtual police state.

    With the ever-increasing numbers of SWAT raids in America, the number of nonviolent drug offenders, innocent bystanders, and wrongly accused U.S. residents, injured or even killed has been rising. The terror of having your homes invaded while sleeping, usually by large teams of heavily armed paramilitary forces, has not escaped even the mayor of the small town of Berwyn Heights MD, very near the capitol of our nation.

    A police SWAT team raided the home in 2008, shooting and killing the family’s two dogs. They falsely accused the mayor of receiving 32 pounds of marijuana. Was this military type swat raid necessary? Of course not.
    “My government blew through my doors and killed my dogs,” Calvo said. Imagine what they do to people that are not so prominent or god forbid actually guilty of a marijuana crime. Must see articles and video here:
    Gung Ho SWAT Team Kills Mayor’s Dogs In Botched Pot Raid
    Maryland Mayor’s Dogs Killed During No-Knock Raid
    Police shot the families 7-year-old dog Payton, handcuffed the mayor’s mother-in-law (making her lie next to the dead dog on the floor), shot the other 4-year-old dog Chase in the back, and then handcuffed Calvo in only his boxer shorts. Mrs. Calvo said, “They were my kids. All I could see was the blood and the tissue of the dogs”–the police apparently tracked the dogs’ blood through the house. The police claim they had a no-knock warrant, but failed to produce one until 71 hours later according to Mayor Calvo.

    The family maintains the two black Labradors were harmless and said police apparently killed them “for sport,” gunning down one of them as it was running away.” “Our dogs were our children.”

    Prince George’s County Police Chief Melvin High and other officials refuse to apologize for killing the dogs, maintaining the officers felt threatened (clearly they are in the wrong profession). We all know how scary dogs can be while they’re running away from you. Imagine if the U.S Supreme court rules police really don’t need a warrant what will happen. The only reason we heard about this is because Calvo was the mayor.

    This is a much more common occurrence than most people are aware of or would like to believe. These raids are very violent in nature and are used against even nonviolent drug offenders including misdemeanors offenses, as we see many victims of these raids turn out to be completely innocent. It is clear, in many instances the raids terrorize innocents when police mistakenly target the wrong residence or people who’s only crime is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There have been dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not only of drug offenders, but also of police officers, children, bystanders, and innocent suspects, and those responsible for this are rarely if ever held accountable or brought to justice.

    There is no doubt this is happening, the scary part is it’s getting worse as the Kentucky case now at the Supreme Court demonstrates. The government and judicial system are condoning –even supporting– more attacks against us, when the real problem is the failed drug war.
    The solution is to review and change the drug laws that are the underlying cause of not only everything in this article, but the majority of the drug abuse in this country. Drugs are a health problem. Criminalizing drugs has manufactured criminals and crime. In business and life the policy is responsible for the results it gets, not so in the war on drugs or it would have ended long ago. Somehow common sense and rational thought do not count when we consider the drug war.

    Here are some more very disturbing police abuses that are being condoned and facilitated.
    South Dakota School Officials Terrorized Kindergarten Classes with Drug-Sniffing Dogs.
    “The very notion of there being a drug problem in the kindergarten is ludicrous.”"
    But read what happened, this is your government doing this nobody else. Its even worse as this case has racial overtones and these laws are being used in discriminating manners as this case exemplifies.
    A school official who accompanied the police instructed the students to put their hands on their desks and avoid petting or looking at the dog or making any sudden movements. In some classrooms, a school official told students that any sudden movement could cause the dog to attack. Is this what we call a free country now? The drug laws are a bigger problem than the drugs, the police are more dangerous most often than anyone else. In at least one instance, the ACLU complaint said, the dog escaped its leash in a kindergarten class and chased students around the room. Some students had been traumatized by previous dog attacks and one young girl still has the scars of a previous attack on her face. Many began crying and trembling and at least one urinated involuntarily. What lesson did this teach these children?

    Again these are just some of the ones you here about, most of them are never reported:

    These drug raids are far more dangerous to everyone than marijuana ever could be. In one case Police opened fire with children in the house killing the family dogs in front of those children. It’s a miracle no people were killed. Those children were endangered by the police and traumatized in ways that will be with them the rest of there lives, they did this over marijuana. They could easily have arrested the father away from the home but chose to do it this way because there are no consequences for them.
    It’s time to legalize marijuana and put an end to this once and for all. This is not only dangerous and socially destructive to families and the community it is economically unsustainable. Hundreds of billions of dollars are wasted on these raids and laws and look at the results. Look at what we get for that money. We could reduce drug abuse in this country and slice hundreds of billions from our budget while improving the lives of millions of families by simply reforming the laws and the policies of prohibition and treating this like the health problem it is. We could cripple the drug cartels over night, in fact we could hardly have a worse policy if we tried, creating crime and filling our prisons while enriching drug cartels and bankrupting our country. This may go down as the worst policy in American history when we finally wake up to the fact that it is responsible for the mess in which we find ourselves.

  3. MethylOatmeal
    The "Patriot" Act was the point of no return in America.
  4. md2020
    Lets not forget "Forfeiture laws that motivate the law enforcement."
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