A legal brief on the US Supreme Court ruling in Kentucky v King 563 U.S (2011)

A legal brief on the U.S A legal brief on the US Supreme Court ruling in Kentucky v King 563 U.S (2011)


Police followed a suspected drug dealer to an apartment complex in Lexington, Kentucky. They knocked loudly on the door of the apartment. The smell of marijuana was eminent from outside the door. They proceeded to announce their entry and knocked again loudly on the door. While outside, they heard a noise is emanating from the house. They believed that the noises were due to evidence destruction. They announced their intention to gain access to the apartment once more and proceeded to kick open the door and find the suspect and other people. They saw drugs in plain view, plus other evidence after a continued search.


Police did not have a warrant of entry into the apartment but proceeded to access the premises forcibly after announcing their intention to enter. In Court, the respondent denied the intention of destroying evidence. The Circuit Court denied his motion. The Court argued that given the difficult circumstances, warrantless entry into the premises was justified to prevent the destruction of evidence. He entered a conditional guilty plea and reserved his right to appeal the Court’s ruling. The Kentucky Court of Appeal affirmed his plea. The Supreme Court of Kentucky reversed this, assuming that the exigent circumstances rule applied and that the search was warrantless and could have led to the respondent’s intention to destroy evidence. According to the police, there was a need to move into the premises quickly to prevent possible destruction of evidence since they had all reasons to believe that e respondent was engaging in the process of evidence destruction.


The difficult circumstances rule applied since police failed to create the exigency by violating the Fourth Amendment, which requires that all searches and seizures be done reasonably. A warrantless search may be presumed reasonable if the difficulties of the situation make the need to enforce the law a priority under the Fourth Amendment. Consider United States v. Ventresca, 380 U.S. 102, 107(1965). A difficulty of this nature can, for example, be the prevention of evidence destruction, which was in this case. It is important to note that the exigent circumstances may not apply if the police deliberately create the contingency and proceed to carry out an invalid search, contravening the Fourth Amendment, and infringing on the suspects’ constitutional rights, to avoid the requirement of an entry warrant. In such scenarios, the exigency circumstances rule does not apply.


It is prudent to note that police announced their intention to enter the apartment since the smell of marijuana was emanating from the premise. Upon knocking and identifying their intention, noises of evidence destruction were heard. Another knock and announcement for entry were made, with no response. As a result, the police kicked open the door and gained access. Evidence was obtained, and more upon further search, and seized. The police did not have a search warrant, though. But according to the Fourth Amendment, a warrantless search is objective if the need for enforcing the law overrides everything else. The respondent’s rights were infringed because there was no search warrant for his house.


The Supreme Court overruled the Court of Appeal’s ruling, arguing that although the officers acted in good faith, the exigent circumstances rule could not justify their warrantless search. According to the Supreme Court, the police should have reasoned that the moment they announced their entry and presence, the suspect would destroy the evidence.


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