New Jersey Supreme Court Rules Police Can Arrest Someone Who Answers Door Smoking Marijuana

On Wednesday the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that police could force their way into an apartment and arrest someone if they answer the door smoking marijuana.

The case in question involved Rashad Walker, who answered the door for 4 undercover Newark police officers in 2008 while smoking a joint.

“Defendant appeared at the door smoking a marijuana cigarette,” the court said. “Thus, a disorderly persons offense was being committed in the presence of police officers in the hallway of a public housing building, where the officers have a right to be.”

Once inside, the police found marijuana, cocaine and 27 packets of heroin. Walker served 3 years of a six-year sentence after being convicted, but says his 4th Amendment rights were violated in the case.

149 - 155 High Street, Henley-in-Arden - door handle on 155 High StreetThe court voted 6 to 0 to overturn an appellate court, who had ruled the police still needed a search warrant to enter the apartment.

“Our holding is limited to the precise facts before us,” Judge Ariel Rodriguez, who is temporarily assigned to the  Supreme Court, wrote 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.” In the eyes of the 6 NJ Supreme Court justices, the fact that Walker tried to run after being caught with the joint justified police entry into the apartment.

I’m sure many of you are asking the same question: why answer the door smoking a joint? Even if you think you know the people on the other side, you can’t pass the joint or put it down for a second?

The most likely reason this guy answered the door in such a fashion is arrogance, which is also the main reason dealers get busted by undercover cops. They think they are untouchable, but unless you are bribing the police, you can become a target at any time – you can even if you have all the cops in your town on your payroll, for that matter.

The NJ Supreme Court in this case is basically saying this guy had to literally be smoking a joint in front of the cops before they would have a right to come into his home. And that’s exactly what he did.

In the end, of course, police should not be wasting time with marijuana users. The only reason people deal drugs in the first place is because of the inflated profit margins created by prohibition, something that will be eliminated under legalization. After all, there are few alcohol or tobacco street dealers in this country.

What if this event had turned into a shootout and someone got killed? What if a stray bullet had struck a child? Would it have been worth it then?

– Joe Klare

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