* Obama administration, states supported the police
* Justices rule search warrant was not needed
By James Vicini
WASHINGTON(Reuters) - Police officers can enter a
residence without a search warrant when they knock on the door,
announce their presence and believe evidence is being
destroyed, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.
By an 8-1 vote, the high court ruled that entering a
residence in such emergency-like circumstances does not violate
the constitutional protections against unreasonable searches
and seizures of evidence.
The decision adds to a string of recent rulings that have
curtailed suspects' rights, while giving police more leeway to
seize evidence in drug or other criminal cases.
In writing the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said
the Kentucky Supreme Court was wrong to overturn a drug
conviction and an 11-year prison sentence on the grounds the
officers should have obtained a warrant before entering the
The officers acted lawfully when they banged loudly on the
door, announced their presence and kicked down the door after
smelling marijuana and hearing noises that led them to believe
evidence was about to be destroyed, he said.
Alito rejected the argument that the police had created or
manufactured the emergency and should have foreseen that their
conduct would have caused the occupants to attempt to destroy
The Obama administration and a number of states supported
Kentucky in its argument that the search had been lawful.
Alito agreed and said there was no evidence the officers
violated the Constitution's Fourth Amendment or threatened to
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the lone dissenter.
"The court today arms the police with a way routinely to
dishonor the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement in drug
cases. In lieu of presenting their evidence to a neutral
magistrate, police officers may now knock, listen and then
break the door down, nevermind that they had ample time to
obtain a warrant," she said.
The Supreme Court case is Kentucky v. King, No. 09-1272.
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Bill Trott)
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