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Criminal Law

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/21/2015 Category: Education
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 754 times Debate No: 68666
Debate Rounds (3)
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Do you agree or disagree with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Kentucky v. King case


I assume that this round is for acceptance only. I will defend the U.S. Supreme Court's 2011 decision in Kentucky v. King.
Debate Round No. 1


mrsrich357 forfeited this round.


This is rather pointless, as my opponent has lost interest in the debate apparently.

The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decided Kentucky v. King correctly, which subsequently was properly decided on remand by the Kentucky Supreme Court (KSC).

In that case, SCOTUS determined that police are not barred from conducting an exigent circumstances (warrantless) search based on a defendant's claim that the police created the exigent circumstances by causing the defendant to fear a possible search.

The facts were that the police were in pursuit of a drug dealer and heard a door slam in a hall the dealer had run into. Entering the hall, the police smelled burnt marijuana coming from one of the apartments, and knocked on the door. The police then heard sounds that the police claimed created a suspicion that the people inside were destroying evidence, and entered the apartment to conduct a search without a warrant on the basis of exigent circumstances (imminent destruction of evidence). The defendant's conviction was based on evidence found because of that search.

The defendant, on appeal, claimed that the police had created the exigent circumstances (the apparent destruction of evidence, according to the police) by knocking on the door. The defendant reasoned that the police should not be permitted to induce the circumstances giving rise to a warrantless search, and convinced the KSC that this position was true.

The prosecution appealed the case to SCOTUS, which heard the case because there was a circuit split over whether exigent circumstances apply when fear of an imminent search, created by the police, can be said to have caused the appearance of exigent circumstances.

SCOTUS determined that a defendant's fear that police might conduct a search does not mean that the police have created the exigent circumstances. While the explanation is extensive, SCOTUS's reasoning boils down to the fact that police may knock on a door for a great many reasons other than to perform a search, so a defendant cannot claim that it is the police who have created exigent circumstances by knocking on a door, such that a search will be prohibited. The contrary line of analysis would apply the exclusionary rule too broadly--for instance, every time a person with evidence of a crime saw the police approach to speak with him.

Ginsburg's dissent was unconvincing, primarily because it dwelled on whether there were in fact exigent circumstances and, where actually relevant, was inconsistent with constitutional law. She made an excellent point that if police can claim that something rather unsurprising, such as nondescript noises inside an apartment, give rise to an honest belief that evidence is being destroyed, there will be no limit to warrantless searches of people's homes at the whims of police officers. The problem with her excellent point is that the KSC had never decided the issue of exigent circumstances and it was not the issue on appeal. The issue on appeal was assuming exigent circumstances could the exclusionary rule apply if the exigent circumstances arose because of the police knocking on a door. There, her argument that police could get a warrant to avoid "creating" exigent circumstances was unconvincing, because there is no legal requirement that police get a warrant if they instead wish to see whether a person will volunteer information. There is no constitutional protection against an officer knocking on your door to ask you a question without a warrant (nor any requirement that you answer when there is no warrant), so Ginsburg's argument that the officers could have gotten a warrant is completely irrelevant. It must be noted that Ginsburg may have chosen to dissent to signal what the Court's opinion might be if the question of exigent circumstances had actually been decided, because she is a smart woman who is generally very careful in her positions.

SCOTUS correctly decided that police knocking at your door does not mean the State can be blamed for exigent circumstances and the exclusionary rule thus applied. That, however, did not end the case. The majority, quite wisely, remanded the case to the KSC for further proceedings as the issue of whether there had been exigent circumstances had not been considered by the KSC. Subsequently, the KSC correctly decided that there were no exigent circumstances. The police's belief that ordinary sounds meant something out of the ordinary could not sustain an exigent circumstances search, so the KSC applied the exclusionary rule on the correct grounds that the police could not have had a reasonable belief that there were exigent circumstances. Which should be a relief, or else as Ginsburg implied the police could simply search any home they want, at any time they want.

Ultimately, careful and narrow jurisprudence settled an important split in the circuits and still left the case against the accused open for dismissal on the correct grounds. This is solid jurisprudence in action.

I do not anticipate making any further arguments except in the event that my opponent responds.

Debate Round No. 2


mrsrich357 forfeited this round.


my opponent has forfeited for some reason.
Debate Round No. 3
No comments have been posted on this debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by lannan13 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeiture