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April 7, 2014
For More Information, contact:
Luther Strange
Joy Patterson (334) 242-7491
Alabama Attorney General
Page 1 of 2

(MONTGOMERY) – Attorney General Luther Strange said an Alabama Supreme
Court ruling on Friday is groundbreaking in its conclusion that the presence of a
methamphetamine laboratory (“meth lab”) in an apartment presented such a dire and
immediate threat to public safety that law enforcement officers properly entered the
apartment without delay to secure it so firefighters could go inside to contain the lab.
The opinion* involved the search of an apartment located in an area of
Montgomery that is both heavily residential and heavily commercial. The Court agreed
with the Attorney General’s argument that police officers properly entered the
apartment without a warrant because the potential presence of a meth lab posed such a
danger to them and to the public that they could not risk waiting to obtain a search
warrant. This is the first case in which the Court has addressed the serious 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,” said
Attorney General Strange. “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.”

On January 7, 2011, Montgomery police and firefighters responded to a call
about a meth lab operating in an apartment at the Stonehenge Apartments in the
Carmichael Road area. 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 they
knocked on the apartment door and one of the two defendants opened it, the smell
became even stronger. Officers then removed the two defendants – a man and a woman

  • and two small children who were in the apartment with them before having the entire
    building evacuated. After the officers cleared the apartment, firefighters went in to
    contain the lab. Once inside, they found an inactive meth lab packed inside a foam
    cooler. Both defendants were charged with first-degree unlawful manufacturing of a
    controlled substance based on this evidence.
    501 Washington Avenue * Montgomery, AL 36104 * (334) 242-7300
    www.ago.alabama.gov Page 2 of 2

The trial court granted the defendants’ motions to suppress the evidence seized
during the search of the apartment. In its order, the trial court found that there were not
sufficiently compelling reasons for the officers to enter the apartment without a search
warrant. The State appealed, and the Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the trial court’s
ruling. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the Attorney General’s Office argued that in
light of the meth lab smell emanating from the apartment and the danger a meth lab
poses, the officers and firefighters had a reasonable, good-faith belief that they could
not risk waiting for a search warrant before they entered the apartment.

In its April 4 opinion, the Court discussed the dangers posed by meth labs,
noting in particular that inhaling the odor of the chemicals used in the
methamphetamine manufacturing process “has adverse health effects” and that there is
a “high risk of explosion” associated with the methamphetamine manufacturing
process. The Court then determined that “law-enforcement officers were justified in
entering and searching the apartment because the officers, acting on probable cause and
in good faith, reasonably believed from the totality of the circumstances that the nature
of the manufacture of methamphetamine posed a risk of danger to them and the

Attorney General Strange commended his Criminal Appeals Division, noting in
particular Assistant Attorney General Michael G. Dean, who handled the case, and
Assistant Attorney General P. David Bjurberg, chief of the appeals division.

*Please note: The opinion in State v. Clayton involves two cases, with numbers 1130012 and 1130013 at this time, the defendants have not been convicted of a crime; these appeals were pre-trial
appeals brought by the State to challenge the suppression of the drug evidence found inside the