The requirements of a police officer obtaining an impartial Court ordered search warrant have become a little blurred. It will be easier for the police to decide not to obtain a search warrant when they themselves deem that they have probable cause to believe drugs may be in a home. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that when the police think they smell marijuana coupled with the sounds of what they believe could be the destruction of evidence, is reason enough for them to gain forced entry into a home without a search warrant while claiming probable cause and exigent circumstances.
Overturning a ruling by the Kentucky Supreme Court in Kentucky v. King, No. 09–1272 (2011), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the police had the right to break in to an apartment. Upon following an alleged drug dealer into an apartment building, the police in pursuit could not determine which apartment their suspect had entered. The officers smelled marijuana smoke coming from one door, and wrongly assumed that he had entered that one. They then knocked and announced their presence and heard the sound of people moving. At this, the officers announced they were coming in and broke down the door. The police claimed they had reasonable suspicion and probable cause for the entry due to the smell of marijuana.
Reasonable suspicion is determined by balancing the need of a warrantless search against the intrusion a search creates concerning the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment reads in part, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses…against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause…” (U.S. Constitution.net, n.d.). The Fourth Amendments requirement of probable cause maintains that a police officer show sufficient facts that will convince a judge of the necessity of a search warrant. It is the probability, not the certainty that a crime is or has been committed and is said to be a flexible, commonsense standard but will mean little if the police will have leeway in what is to be considered probable. DeLeo, J. (2006)
In an earlier decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in, Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 10 (1948) acknowledged that “the officer did not have probable cause to make an arrest until he entered the room where he detected the odor of burning opium.” The Court also stated, “The warrantless search could not be sustained as being incident to a valid arrest and that it violated the Fourth Amendment.” The police were not authorized to breakdown the door, but were constitutionally required to present what they knew at that time to an independent magistrate to determine whether the police possessed probable cause to issue a warrant. The Courts also acknowledged in Mincey v. Arizona, 437, U.S. 385, 394, (1948), that “searches of a home are presumed unreasonable except when “the exigencies of the situation make the needs of law enforcement so compelling that a warrantless...