Virginia Supreme Court rules 4-3 on the wrong side of the law for exigent searches
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The Constitution’s Fourth Amendment addresses limits on the government’s power to search and seize evidence and people in criminal cases. Unfortunately, over the decades the appellate courts have permitted many circumstances that allow a search without a search warrant.
Praised be the three Virginia Supreme Court justices who on September 17, 2015, dissented from the four-justice majority that affirmed a warrantless apartment search purportedly conducted pursuant to exigent circumstances. Evans v. Virginia, ___ Va. ___ (Sept. 17, 2015). The search found a substantial cache of contraband.
In dissenting, the court minority pointed out that mere probable cause to believe that a police officer smelled marijuana does not by itself create the exigent circumstances to allow a search. The minority also pointed out that before an exigent circumstance search may be conducted, the police must have probable cause that the exigency exists, which exigency is to prevent the destruction of criminal evidence.
Let the dissent carry the day, sooner rather than later.