The U.S. Supreme Court has broadened rules allowing officers to break into residences without warrants, but it's a ruling Gainesville police say likely won't change the way they operate.
Police have long been able to enter if "exigent" circumstances exist, such as a suspect destroying evidence. But the case heard earlier this month set a precedent that police may enter a home even if they created the exigent circumstances in the first place.
Sgt. Jay Parrish from the Gainesville Police Department said these kinds of entries rarely happen because they pose a high risk to officers.
"(Police) usually try to knock and wait for someone to let them in," he said. "We're not taking a ram to the door and busting it off the hinges."
But in Kentucky v. King, the court said such an entry would be acceptable if officers first knock and scare a suspect into destroying evidence.
The Kentucky Supreme Court, which heard the case before it reached the U.S. Supreme Court, ruled against these kinds of entries, fearing they would allow police to bypass search warrants by deliberately creating exigent circumstances.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected this interpretation earlier this month, stating citizens don't have to answer the door when police knock. But individuals who hear police and then choose to destroy evidence, "have only themselves to blame for the warrantless exigent-circumstances search that may ensue," according to the court's opinion.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the only member to oppose the decision. In her dissenting opinion, she wrote: "How ‘secure' do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for evidence of unlawful activity?"
Gainesville attorney Arturo Corso said he's OK with the decision, as long as police are only using it to preserve evidence.
"They have to reasonably and truthfully believe you're destroying evidence," he said, indicating it's not enough if they just have a hunch. "I don't have a problem with police reserving the right to preserve evidence ... but that doesn't necessarily mean they get to search your entire house without a warrant. ... These are very nuanced and important lines being drawn here."
At the end of the day, Parrish and Corso both said there's one easy way to keep police from entering your home: Don't break the law.
"The privacy we enjoy in our own homes, we enjoy as law-abiding citizens," Corso said. "The bigger picture is you shouldn't be doing drugs, even in privacy."