The exigent circumstances rule applies when the police do not create the exigency by engaging or threatening to engage in conduct that violates the Fourth Amendment.
A guy gets chased by the cops, suspected of selling drugs. He loses them in an apartment complex. The cops come up to one door in particular, and claim to smell burning marijuana. They announce their intent to enter, at which point they claim to hear what sounds like someone destroying evidence. The cops enter, where they see drugs in plain view and find more evidence of a crime after a later search.
They never found the drug dealer, btw.
Anyway, they arrest the guy in the apartment, who promptly files for suppression of the evidence as inadmissible, because it was obtained without a warrant. The circuit court denied the suppression, but the state supreme court reversed, and the Supremes reversed the state supreme court.
The federal Supreme Court has denied a man the rights he has always had, rights which have been recognized by the state since Magna Carta. They have created a situation where, without consulting an impartial judge, a police officer may (after the fact) claim to have sensed the destruction of presumed evidence behind a closed door. This means that an officer may act unchecked against any citizen acting peaceably within their own home as long as they later claim that they thought destruction of evidence was occurring when they knocked.
This puts the officer at tremendous risk when he decides to barge in without a warrant. A law abiding person could reasonably suspect they were undergoing a home invasion, draw his weapon and fire on the invaders, resulting in officers firing back and killing him – all because a policeman thought they heard evidence being destroyed, when it was only a toilet being flushed.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was right on this one, and it is a shame she was the only one. In her dissent she wrote
The urgency [to go into the home] must exist, I would rule, when the police come on the scene, not subsequent to their arrival, prompted by their own conduct.
Chalk this up as another car attached to the long train of abuses and usurpations. I’ve updated the what’s left of the Constitution page accordingly.
The ruling was too broad. We are no longer free.