No Warrant? Funky Smell? Sound Of Flushing? Kick Down That Door, Say Supremes

Adam Liptak of the NYT:

Search Allowed if Police Hear Evidence Being Destroyed
By ADAM LIPTAK
Published: May 16, 2011

WASHINGTON — The police do not need a warrant to enter a home if they smell burning marijuana, knock loudly, announce themselves and hear what they think is the sound of evidence being destroyed, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in an 8-to-1 decision.

The issue as framed by the majority was a narrow one. It 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.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said police officers do not violate the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches by kicking down a door after the occupants of an apartment react to hearing that officers are there by seeming to destroy evidence.

Only Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented:

“The court today arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases,” Justice Ginsburg wrote. “In lieu of presenting their evidence to a neutral magistrate, police officers may now knock, listen, then break the door down, never mind that they had ample time to obtain a warrant.”

It used to be, to paraphrase an old joke made from a verse from Matthew, that when two or three are gathered together in the name of invasively enforcing the law, there was a Fourth. But no longer. Now… no warrant? no problem. Just sniff, knock, listen, kick… and arrest.

H/T Jon Walker of FDL.

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