What was once sacred, “a man’s castle,” just lost considerable ground in regards to our Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches. A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, deriving out of Kentucky, gives law enforcement officers the authority to breakdown the door and enter without a search warrant, if they hear sounds that appear to be someone destroying evidence, after first knocking on the door (Kentucky v. King, October Term (2010)). Generally, law enforcement officers may not enter a home, unless they have 1) search warrant, 2) permission from the owner, or 3) illegal contraband in plain view. The only exceptions to this long standing rule, were an emergency situation that made unauthorized entry into a home necessary or a law enforcement officer was pursuing a fleeing suspect and observed the suspect enter a particular home, apartment or building.
The new case law, provides law enforcement officers with more leeway to break into residences or buildings in search of illegal drugs. However, with every new power comes the potential for abuse. If a law enforcement officer is operating under good faith that he/she heard what they believe was evidence being destroyed, the fact that no such activity is found, will not exempt prosecution of other contraband found. This case undoubtedly gives law enforcement officers an easy way to ignore our Fourth Amendment right.