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Supreme Court signals new assault on 4th Amendment in drug cases

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Kentucky v. King,. In the words of Justice Ginsburg, the decision "...arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement in drug cases." If police believed there was evidence of criminal activity in your home, it used to be that they needed a warrant, or at least some sort of emergency which they themselves did not ccreat excusing a warrant, before they could kick in your door.

In the King case, police purchased crack cocaine from a drug dealer outside an apartment complex. Before they could arrest the dealer, the dealer fled into the complex. Officer's believed the dealer had gone into one of two apartments but did not know which one. They smelled marijuana coming from one apartment door. As it turned out this was the wrong apartment. Nonetheless the officers banged on the door "as loud as they could," and began yelling out "This is the police!" or "police, police, police."

Not surprisingly the police then heard "people moving inside the apartment." (Who wouldn't expect noise from inside an apartment when anyone bangs violently on the door shouting "Police!?") From these "noises," officers then concluded that "drug related evidence was about to be destroyed." The police then kicked in the apartment door and arrested Mr. King. Police later realized they kicked in th ewrong door. Mr. King was not the drug dealer they were looking for. Based on evidence they found in th eapartment Mr. King was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to an 11 year prison term.

Although the Supreme Court ultimately sent the case back to the Kentucky Court's for additional findings of fact, the majority laid out a painstakingly clear framework by which police an dgovernment agents could easily and, in the estimation of the Court lawfully, avoid having to get a search warrant before kicking in the door to someone's home.

Under the reasoning in King, now if the police believe there may be evidence of criminal activity in your home, they need not bother with a warrant, They need only bang and shout as loudly at your door as possible. Any noise you make in response from within will then be used by them to claim they were afraid you were destroying said evidence, and in crashes your door.

Oh, and the little mentioned fact that you weren't the person they were looking for in the first place? Too bad, so sorry. Guess you should have been more quiet in answering or not answering your door.

If you or a loved one are facing drug charges in Oregon, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer now more than ever.

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