Landmark ruling made by Alabama Supreme Court in Meth lab case - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Landmark ruling made by Alabama Supreme Court in Meth lab case

(Source: MGN) (Source: MGN)
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

The Alabama Supreme Court made a groundbreaking ruling on Friday that protects citizens from the dangers of meth labs.

The ruling was made in relation to an event that happened on Jan. 7 at an apartment on Carmichael Road in Montgomery. Police and Fire units responded to a call about a possible meth lab operation in the Stonehenge Apartment complex. When the officers arrived at the complex, they could smell what they knew from their training and experience to be the odor of a meth lab. After knocking on the apartment door and one of the subjects opened it, the odor became stronger. At that point officers removed the man and woman that were occupying the apartment as well as two small children who were in the apartment with them. Police and Firefighters then evacuated the building for safety concerns. After the apartment was cleared, firefighters went in to contain the lab, and that is when they found an inactive meth lab packed inside a foam cooler. Both defendants were charged with first-degree unlawful manufacturing of a controlled substance.

The trial court granted the defendants' motion to suppress the evidence seized during the search of the apartment, stating that there was not sufficiently compelling reasons for the officers to enter the apartment without a search warrant. The State appealed the ruling, and the Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the trial court's ruling. The Attorney General's Office argued during the appeal to the Supreme Court that due to the meth lab smell emanating from the apartment and the dangers that a meth lab poses, the officers and firefighters had a compelling reason and could not risk waiting for a search warrant before they entered the apartment.

The Court agreed with the Attorney General's argument that police officers properly entered the apartment without a warrant because of the potential presence of a meth lab posed such a danger to the surrounding public. Due to the danger that it posed with a "high risk of explosion", officers could not risk waiting to obtain a search warrant. This is the first case in which the Court has addressed the danger posed by meth labs, and the need for law enforcement and emergency personnel to be able to react quickly to that danger in order to protect the community.

"Meth labs present a great danger both to people and to property. When confronted with a meth lab, police officers and firefighters must be able to react quickly in order to protect the public, as the officers and firefighters did in this case," Attorney General Strange said. "I am pleased that the Court has now recognized that it is appropriate and necessary for public safety officers to act quickly when they are faced with such a serious public health hazard."

Copyright 2014 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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