Kentucky vs King Case: The Warrant Requirement in Drug Cases

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In the case, the Kentucky police were following a suspect who had sold cocaine to an undercover agent. As they lost truck of the suspect, they felt the order of Marijuana and after knocking, they heard some movements and decided to enter and search the house without a warrant. They found King, who is the defendant in the case smoking marijuana and arrested him. He was also in possession of other drugs and money. King had to appeal the decision of the lower court which was overturned by the Kentucky Supreme Court, holding that the entry and search without a warrant was illegal.

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The police were following a suspect who was a drug trafficker. They suspected that the Kings house was the place the suspect may have entered. King was smoking an illegal substance that could have led to his prosecution. The police entered Kings house without a search warrant, which violated the fourth amendment (Elizabeth, 2013). It is obvious that King was a criminal since he was in possession of illegal drugs and money which meant that he was a trafficker also. However, he was not the person the Kentucky police were following.

Procedural history

In the lower court and the Kentucky appeal court, the findings were that the police officers were following a felon, who was dealing with drugs. After smelling marijuana, they also heard some movements in the house after knocking the door and giving their identity, which made them suspect that the evidence was in the process of being destroyed. This is why they decided to enter the house without a search warrant. After evaluating public safety and privacy of individuals, it was concluded that the police had a reason to enter the house and search. However, King appealed to the Supreme Court which was keen not to set a dangerous precedent in relation to search without a warrant (Elizabeth, 2013). The court considered whether there was presence of exigency which would compel the police to break into the apartment. The court decided to overturn the lower court ruling.


The issue, in this case, was about the existence of exigency. Exigency is the need to enter a house due to an emergency that threatened the life of suspect and the others. The exigency must not have been created by the police. The finding is that there existed no exigency in the situation.


The court held that there existed no exigency in the situation. The court also held that the suspect did not even know whether he was being followed and in such a situation, there was no exigency.


The reasoning in the case is that there was no exigency in the case which threatened the life of anyone in the society. In that case, the police should have taken time to obtain a warrant if they had enough reason to belief that King was a criminal, before invading his house.


The court reversed the lower court decision by arguing that there was no exigency in the situation and defending the police in that case would create a precedent where police can create their own exigencies in order to breach the fourth amendment provision.


The case gives an example of the difficult situations that the police officers face in the course of their duty. The fact that they were pursuing a criminal and instead came across a different criminal makes their acts wrong. On the other hand, the use of force by the policies and violation of privacy if all such cases aim at defending the police. The case would create a dangerous precedent if it were not revised.


Elizabeth S. (2013). Wake Forest Law Review Kentucky v. King: The One Where the Supreme Court Dishonors the Warrant Requirement in Drug Cases. Retrieved from

"Kentucky v. King." Oyez. Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech, n.d. Mar 8, 2016. <>

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