- 536 U.S. 635 (2002)
OCTOBER TERM, 2001
KIRK v. LOUISIANA
ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL OF LOUISIANA, FOURTH CIRCUIT
No. 01-8419. Decided June 24, 2002
Mter observing what appeared to be several drug purchases made out of petitioner's apartment and stopping one of the buyers on the street outside petitioner's residence, the police entered petitioner's home and arrested and searched him before obtaining an arrest or a search warrant. Petitioner was charged in Louisiana state court with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. The trial court denied his motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the warrantless entry, arrest, and search, and petitioner was convicted. In holding that the officers' conduct did not violate the Fourth Amendment because they had probable cause to arrest petitioner, the State Court of Appeal declined to decide whether exigent circumstances were present. The State Supreme Court denied review.
Held: The Court of Appeal erred in finding that exigent circumstances were not required to justify the officers' conduct. Its reasoning plainly violates the holding in Payton v. New York, 445 U. S. 573, 590, that the firm line at the entrance to a house may not be crossed without a warrant, absent exigent circumstances. Here, police had neither an arrest nor a search warrant. Although the officers testified at the suppression hearing that they took action out of fear that evidence would be destroyed, the Louisiana Court of Appeal did not determine that such exigent circumstances were present.
Certiorari granted; 773 So. 2d 259, reversed and remanded.
Police officers entered petitioner's home, where they arrested and searched him. The officers had neither an arrest warrant nor a search warrant. Without deciding whether exigent circumstances had been present, the Louisiana Court of Appeal concluded that the warrantless entry, arrest, and search did not violate the Fourth Amendment of the Federal Constitution because there had been probable cause to arrest petitioner. 00-0190 (La. App. 11/15/00), 773 So. 2d 259. The court's reasoning plainly violates our holding in Payton
v. New York, 445 U. S. 573, 590 (1980), that "[a]bsent exigent circumstances," the "firm line at the entrance to the house ... may not reasonably be crossed without a warrant." We thus grant the petition for a writ of certiorari and reverse the Court of Appeal's conclusion that the officers' actions were lawful, absent exigent circumstances. *
On an evening in March 1998, police officers observed petitioner's apartment based on an anonymous citizen complaint that drug sales were occurring there. After witnessing what appeared to be several drug purchases and allowing the buyers to leave the scene, the officers stopped one of the buyers on the street outside petitioner's residence. The officers later testified that "[b]ecause the stop took place within a block of the apartment, [they] feared that evidence would be destroyed and ordered that the apartment be entered." 00-0190, at 2, 773 So. 2d, at 261. Thus, "[t]hey immediately knocked on the door of the apartment, arrested the defendant, searched him thereto and discovered the cocaine and the money." Id., at 4, 773 So. 2d, at 263. Although the officers sought and obtained a search warrant while they detained petitioner in his home, they only obtained this warrant after they had entered his home, arrested him, frisked him, found a drug vial in his underwear, and observed contraband in plain view in the apartment.
Based on these events, petitioner was charged in a Louisiana court with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He filed a pretrial motion to suppress evidence obtained by the police as a result of their warrantless entry, arrest, and search. After holding a suppression hearing, the trial court denied this motion. Petitioner was convicted and sentenced to 15 years at hard labor.
On direct review to the Louisiana Court of Appeal, petitioner challenged the trial court's suppression ruling. He argued that the police were not justified in entering his home
*We also grant petitioner's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis.