Kentucky v. King revisited
May 3, 2012 3:00 PM Subscribe
Remember Kentucky v. King from last year? The mis-reported conclusion was that police could enter a home without a warrant to prevent destruction of evidence based on hearing movement after knocking. A week ago the supreme court of Kentucky published (pdf) its revisiting of the case given instructions from the US supreme court, and found in favor of King (via):
[W]e conclude that the Commonwealth failed to meet its burden of demonstrating exigent circumstances justifying a warrantless entry. During the suppression hearing, Officer Cobb repeatedly referred to the “possible” destruction of evidence. He stated that he heard people moving inside the apartment, and that this was “the same kind of movements we’ve heard inside” when other suspects have destroyed evidence. Cobb never articulated the specific sounds he heard which led him to believe that evidence was about to be destroyed.
In fact, the sounds as described at the suppression hearing were indistinguishable from ordinary household sounds, and were consistent with the natural and reasonable result of a knock on the door. Nothing in the record suggests that the sounds officers heard were anything more than the occupants preparing to answer the door.
The police officers’ subjective belief that evidence was being (or about to be) destroyed is not supported by the record, and this Court cannot conclude that the belief was objectively reasonable. “[N]o exigency is created simply because there is probable cause to believe that a serious crime has been committed[.]” Welsh v. Wisconsin, 466 U.S. 740, 753, 104 S.Ct. 2091, 80 L.Ed.2d 732 (1984) (citing Payton, 445 U.S. 573, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 63 L.Ed.2d 639). Exigent circumstances do not deal with mere possibilities, and the Commonwealth must show something more than a possibility that evidence is being destroyed to defeat the presumption of an unreasonable search and seizure.
Consistent with the instructions on remand from the United States Supreme Court, this Court concludes that exigent circumstances did not exist when police made a warrantless entry of the apartment occupied by Appellant King. Therefore, the denial of King’s motion to suppress evidence is reversed, and King’s judgment of conviction stands vacated.
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