Kentucky and the King: an exigent step to a bright-line rule

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Kentucky v. King, 22 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S979 (May 16, 2011): Writ of Certiorari, Granted – It must be noted that all but one Justice (Ginsberg) joined in this opinion.  The police investigating suspected drug dealing set up a controlled buy.  An undercover LEO is watching the event take place and calls for his take-down team to respond when the buy occurs.  The team is late and by the time they get to the apartment the suspect has gone down a breezeway and entered the apartment (one of two) on the right (the other is on the left).  The undercover LEO radioed that the suspect entered the apartment on the right, but by the time that was said over the radio the team had already left the car (with the radio in it).  They run down the breezeway to find two apartments – one on the right and one on the left.  They smell pot coming from the apartment on the left.  They knock forcefully and call out their presence.  They hear movement and believe that the drugs are being destroyed.  They warn that they will enter.  They enter by breaking down the door (albeit, the wrong door) and find trafficking amounts of drugs.

Kentucky Supreme Court created a two-part test to weed out attempts by law enforcement to “create” exigent circumstances.  The USSC rejects this and sets out the bright line rule that “the exigent circumstances rule justifies a warrantless search when the conduct of the police preceding the exigency is reasonable in the same sense.”

J. Ginsberg dissents with opinion.

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