7:51pm

Tue May 17, 2011
The Commonwealth

Kentucky Case Could Expand Police Power

The Supreme Court’s ruling in a case out of Kentucky could give law enforcement officers more power to enter homes without warrants. The case came from Lexington, where law enforcement officers burst into Hollis King’s home after smelling marijuana and having reason to believe he was destroying evidence. The police, however, were not looking for King. They were chasing another suspect who had ducked into a different apartment.

Police don’t need a warrant to enter a residence if there are exigent circumstances, such as someone destroying evidence. But King argued that the circumstances were created by the police. He only tried to dispose of the drugs, he said, because officers were mistakenly pounding on his door.

The Kentucky Supreme Court previously threw out the evidence against King. But in an 8-1 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision. Justice Samuel Alito wrote that King did not have to answer the door or let the police in, therefore, his decision to destroy evidence rather than exercise his rights is not protected. The sole dissenter, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the ruling gives police too much power to enter homes without the proper warrants.