If you live in New Jersey and smoke marijuana in your home, do not answer the door. That’s the message sent by the New Jersey Supreme Court who ruled earlier this week that police have the right to force their way in if greeted at the door by someone puffing a doob.
The decision stems from a 2008 raid where four Newark cops went undercover to bust an alleged dealer in the Riverview Court projects on a completely uncorroborated tip. Meaning: they didn’t take the time to verify that their source was accurate or get a warrant.
When they showed up at the home of Rashad Walker, the undercover cops were (for some reason) surprised to see Walker smoking a joint. That’s when they prematurely blew their load and busted in. Walker tried to get away and “suppress evidence” but police arrested him right then and there with marijuana and heroin.
Walker felt that the raid was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. He said that his merely smoking a joint in his private home was not enough probable cause for them to come busting in and search his house for anything else.
Unfortunately, the court unanimously disagreed. They argued that because he ran and tried to destroy evidence, the cops were within their right to bust in without a warrant. “Our holding is limited to the precise facts before us,” wrote Judge Ariel Rodriguez in the decision. “We do not suggest that, had no one come to the door, the mere smell of marijuana would have justified a forced entry into defendant’s home.”
The American Civil Liberties Union has come out against the move, pointing out that marijuana smoking shouldn’t be considered a criminal offense in the first place.
“It should be a civil penalty, as it is in some places,” said Alex Shalom, policy counsel at ACLU-NJ, to the New Jersey times.”Should we be entitling police officers to enter a private home simply because they saw you committing a disorderly persons offense? I think that’s troubling.”