Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New Case Affecting Marijuana Users (and also people who just give a damn about their privacy)

A new decision just came down from the United States Supreme Court, stemming from a Lexington, Kentucky criminal case.  The High Court came down in the favor of Police deference, to the detriment of people who like to smoke pot.  Lots of marijuana reform advocates are all up in an uproar, but the truth is, the case doesn’t really say much in the way of “new law.”  So calm down.  I know several of you reading this are marijuana reform advocates, and some of you just about had a heart attack before you got to the third sentence of this paragraph.  But really, the case doesn’t change much of anything.  I will explain what it means in practical use later in this post.

The questions for today’s conversation are:

What does the King case mean to Kentucky law?

What do I do if the police come to my door and people have been smoking pot?


Do I have to answer the door if police knock on it?
Here are the answers, in no particular order, and without much organization.

The case is Commonwealth v. King, and it just came down May 16, so it still has that “new case” smell.  As a side note, the prosecutor who argued the case on behalf of the Commonwealth was a law school acquaintance of mine named Josh Farley.  Apparently he did a good job.

Long story short on the King case, the Po-lice were chasing a suspected dealer who ran into an apartment complex.  They lost the guy but found themselves outside somebody’s apartment where a funny smell was coming from under the door.  After smelling marijuana, the cops knocked on the door.  Subsequent to the knock, they heard sounds inside.  

Here’s the rub.  The police justified a warrantless entry into the home by saying that the people inside were making noises “consistent with the destruction of evidence.”  So they forcefully entered the home.

Somehow that wily kid Joshua Farley got the Supreme Court of the United States to completely ignore the fact that noises “consistent with the destruction of evidence” are also noises consistent with “being in your underwear in your living and running to the bedroom to get clothes on” (in case you don’t like opening the door in your drawers) and “jumping up off the couch to open the door.”

Before this ruling, the police were allowed to come up and knock on your door.  

Before this ruling, the police were allowed to make a warrantless entry in your home if “exigent circumstances” existed.  And before the ruling, an indication that someone inside is destroying evidence inside was considered “exigent circumstances.”

So the only real “change” in the law as far as King is concerned, seems to be that police can now make a warrantless entry into your home whenever they feel like it, so long as they get on the stand and say the words “I heard noises consistent with the destruction of evidence.”

Obviously, the concern is that police will just say those words without ACTUALLY hearing anything, and be able to ransack your place without true exigent circumstances.

However, my advice to clients remains the same.  If the smell of marijuana smoke might accidentally be emanating from your place, and the police come knocking, do not answer the door.  You do not have to.  You are well within your rights to just sit there and watch TV, or keep eating, or both.  And you should.  Do not get up and run around.  Sprinting to the toilet will just give the police a reason to come in without a warrant.

If they have a warrant they will come in.  I promise.  But you don’t need to give them any “exigent circumstances.”  Just chill out.  And if the police do come in, don’t say anything.  You have the right to remain silent.  Use it.  Police are not your friends.  They are not trying to help you.  Don’t help them build a case against you.

If you have a Kentucky marijuana charge, you should talk to a lawyer who knows the law.  Most lawyers will talk to you about your case for free.  For a free consultation, call the Louisville drug charge lawyers at Gruner & Simms, PLLC.  Our lawyers handle criminal charges in Louisville, Lexington, Frankfort, Elizabethtown, and the surrounding areas.  Visit for more details.

Results.  As fast as the law will allow.

Questions answered in this blog post: What does the King case mean to Kentucky law; what do I do if the police come to my door and people have been smoking pot; when can police come into my house without a warrant; do I have to talk to police; how can I find a good Louisville marijuana lawyer; how do I find a good Louisville drug charge lawyer; how do I find a good Louisville criminal defense lawyer; when should I answer the door for police; what are "exigent circumstances"; can police come into my house without a warrant?

1 comment:

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