In an 8-1 vote, the Supreme Court yesterday made it much easier for police to force entry into a home without a warrant. The Lexington, KY case involved police who were pursuing a drug suspect knocking on an apartment from which they thought they smelled marijuana. After identifying themselves, getting no answer and believing they heard people inside flushing drugs down the toilet to destroy evidence, they broke down the door rather than getting a warrant—a procedure that usually takes only a few minutes. A Kentucky Supreme Court initially ruled the drugs found in the apartment couldn’t be used as evidence because the officers had created the “emergency circumstances” they cited in circumventing the warrant requirement—a loophole in the 4th amendment barring warrantless searches. Today’s SCOTUS decision overturns that decision, and endorses warrantless searches in similar situations. Patt finds out what legal precedent this sets; and what implications it has both for expectations of privacy in one’s own home and the way that law enforcement officials do their job.
Bernard Harcourt, professor of Law and Political Science and chair of the Political Science Department at The University of Chicago
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