4th Amd: meth labs

Posted in Uncategorized by Ryan Locke on May 15, 2009

If one of your informants tells you about a meth lab and then you roll up and can smell the meth cooking, can you bust in without a warrant?  Yes.

Exigent circumstances also existed. Because the officers had probable cause to believe methamphetamine was being produced in Clarke’s home, the officers reasonably concluded there was a potential threat to the safety of the officers, anybody inside the home, and anyone in the surrounding area. See United States v. Walsh, 299 F.3d 729, 734 (8th Cir. 2002) (declaring, “[o]ur court has consistently considered safety factors in determining whether exigent circumstances existed,” and “[t]he potential hazards of methamphetamine manufacture are well documented, and numerous cases have upheld limited warrantless searches by police officers who had probable cause to believe they had uncovered an on-going methamphetamine manufacturing operation”). The officers’ concern for the safety of everyone involved in the situation was reasonably heightened after the officers were unable to contact anyone inside the home after knocking and calling the listed telephone number. See id. (holding exigent circumstances existed when there was an odor of ether, possible equipment for methamphetamine manufacturing, and the officers could not determine whether anyone was hiding or lying unconscious, or whether there was a dangerous heat source, in the suspected methamphetamine lab). We therefore conclude the district court did not commit error in denying Clarke’s motion to suppress because the warrantless entry of Clarke’s home on August 23, 2005, was justified by probable cause and exigent circumstances.

United States v. Clarke, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 9913 (8th Cir. May 8, 2009).  Note the justification for the exigent circumstances–not “omg drugs!” but “omg this place is about to blow!”– so I’m not sure how well this rationale will generalize.  But now we know: if something has a chance of blowing up, it’s okay to leave the magistrate out of the loop.


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