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No-Knock Warrent Searches Allowed

Discussion in 'Legal' started by cavman, Jun 16, 2006.

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  1. cavman

    cavman Member

    Dec 16, 2005
    In the NYTimes, WashingtonTimes and others it is reported that evidence recovered from No-Knock Warrent Seaches will be allowed in Court. On the one hand it keeps the bad guys from preparing to kill the cops and get rid of any evidence that the cops are looking for. However, on the other hand, if, God forbid, the cops go to the wrong house (like it has been reported before) what happens when the guy thinking that he is being invaded tries to defend his family and himself?


    Evidence seized by police officers who have a warrant but fail to follow the "knock and announce" rule before entering a suspect's home is still admissible in court, a divided 5-4 Supreme Court ruled yesterday.
    Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said a long-established knock-and-announce rule never was intended to protect a person's right to prevent the government "from seeing or taking evidence described in a warrant."
    Justice Scalia, noting that Detroit police admitted that they violated the rule in a drug raid, said that regardless of the "misstep," the officers would have seized the drugs and gun inside the house when executing the warrant.
    The majority opinion said allowing judges to throw out such incriminating evidence "always entails ... the risk of releasing dangerous criminals ..." and would "generate a constant flood of alleged failures to observe the rule."
    "Another consequence ... would be police officers' refraining from timely entry after knocking and announcing ... producing preventable violence against officers in some cases, and the destruction of evidence in many others," Justice Scalia wrote.
    Joining in the majority opinion were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.
    The minority opinion, written by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, called the ruling "doubly troubling." It "destroys the strongest legal incentive to comply with the Constitution's knock-and-announce" and did so "without significant support in precedent."
    "I can find nothing persuasive in the majority's opinion that could justify its refusal to apply the rule," Justice Breyer said. "Without that unlawful entry they would not have been inside the house; so there would have been no discovery.
    "Of course, had the police entered the house lawfully, they would have found the gun and drugs. But that fact is beside the point," he said.
    Justice Breyer was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
    The Cato Institute called the ruling "regrettable."
    "Because of today's decision, we can expect to see an even more pronounced increase in the use of illegal, military-style no-knock raids. And we can expect to see more innocent civilians wrongly targeted," the Cato Institute said in a statement. But Kent Scheidegger, legal director for the California-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, applauded the ruling, saying the court's refusal to expand the exclusionary rule for evidence was "very important to law enforcement."
    "The knock-and-announce rule regulates how to conduct a search rather than whether a search can take place," he said.
    The case involved an Aug. 27, 1998, arrest by Detroit police who had obtained a search warrant for drugs and guns at the home of Booker Hudson. After entering the home, police found large quantities of drugs, including rock cocaine in Hudson's pocket, and a loaded gun lodged between the cushion and armrest of the chair in which he was sitting.
    Hudson was charged with unlawful drug and firearm possession. Later, he was convicted on drug charges, acquitted on the firearm charge and sentenced to 18 months' probation. He challenged the arrest, saying the unannounced entry by police violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.
    In 1995, the Supreme Court ruled in an Arkansas case that the Fourth Amendment required police officers executing search warrants to knock and announce their presence before entering. The decision also recognized that in some circumstances a search still would be legal without a knock-and-announce by police.
    Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom Justice Alito replaced, appeared to oppose the Detroit search when the case was argued in January and was expected to have voted against it.


    Court Limits Protection Against Improper Entry

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    Published: June 16, 2006

    WASHINGTON, June 15 — Evidence found by police officers who enter a home to execute a search warrant without first following the requirement to "knock and announce" can be used at trial despite that constitutional violation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
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    Video: Court Upholds Police Search
    Video: Court Upholds Police Search
    Text: Hudson v. Michigan

    The 5-to-4 decision left uncertain the value of the "knock-and-announce" rule, which dates to 13th-century England as protection against illegal entry by the police into private homes.

    Justice Antonin Scalia, in the majority opinion, said that people subject to an improper police entry remained free to go to court and bring a civil rights suit against the police.

    But Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the dissenters, said the ruling "weakens, perhaps destroys, much of the practical value of the Constitution's knock-and-announce protection." He said the majority's reasoning boiled down to: "The requirement is fine, indeed, a serious matter, just don't enforce it."

    The decision followed a reargument less than a month ago, with the newest justice, Samuel A. Alito Jr., evidently casting the decisive vote. Justice Breyer's dissenting opinion was clearly drafted to speak for a majority that was lost when Justice Sandra Day O'Connor left the court shortly after the first argument in January.

    The justices' lineup in this case, which upheld a Detroit man's conviction for drug possession, may become a familiar one as the court proceeds through its criminal-law docket. In addition to Justice Alito, those who joined the majority opinion by Justice Scalia were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas and Anthony M. Kennedy. Justice Breyer's dissenting opinion was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    The decision answered a question that the court had left open in 1995, when it held in a unanimous opinion by Justice Thomas that the traditional expectation that the police should knock and announce their presence was part of what made a search "reasonable" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The amendment bars unreasonable searches.

    In that case, Wilson v. Arkansas, the court declined to say what the remedy should be for a violation of the knock-and-announce rule. Ordinarily, evidence that is seized illegally — in the absence of a warrant, for example — may not be used at trial, under what is known as the exclusionary rule.

    By a strong majority, most state and federal courts that have considered the issue have applied the exclusionary rule to violations of the knock-and-announce requirement. In its decision on Thursday in Hudson v. Michigan, No. 04-1360, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals, one of the few courts to have rejected the exclusionary rule in this context.

    In the case, the Detroit police had a warrant to search for drugs in the home of Booker T. Hudson Jr. At his unlocked door, they announced their presence, but did not knock and waited only three to five seconds before entering, not the 15 to 20 seconds suggested by the Supreme Court's precedents.

    Had the police observed a longer wait, they would have executed the search warrant and found the evidence anyway, Justice Scalia said. That made the connection between the improper entry and the discovery of the evidence "too attenuated" to justify the "massive remedy of suppressing evidence of guilt."

    Justice Scalia said the knock-and-announce rule was designed to protect life, property and dignity by giving the homeowner time to respond to the knock and eliminating the need for the police to break down the door. But he said the rule has never protected "one's interest in preventing the government from seeing or taking evidence described in a warrant."

    Throughout his opinion, Justice Scalia made clear his view that the right at issue was a minimal, even trivial, one — "the right not to be intruded upon in one's nightclothes," he said at one point — that could not hold its own when balanced against the "grave adverse consequences that exclusion of relevant incriminating evidence always entails."

    The majority opinion was sufficiently dismissive of the exclusionary rule as to serve as an invitation to bring a direct challenge to the rule in a future case.

    Justice Scalia surveyed changes in the legal landscape since 1961, when the court in the landmark case Mapp v. Ohio made the exclusionary rule binding on the states. Noting that the purpose of the exclusionary rule was to deter constitutional violations by making them costly for the prosecution, Justice Scalia said there was less need for deterrence today, when the police are better trained and when the ability to bring civil rights suits against the government has greatly expanded. Under current federal law, he noted, successful civil rights plaintiffs are reimbursed for their attorney fees.

    The conditions that made deterrence necessary "in different contexts and long ago" no longer exist, Justice Scalia said, adding that a strict application of the exclusionary rule as envisioned by the court in 1961 "would be forcing the public today to pay for the sins and inadequacies of a legal regime that existed almost half a century ago."

    It is rare to find Justice Scalia, a self-described "originalist," incorporating evolving conditions into his constitutional analysis. Almost always, when the court in a constitutional case takes account of changing conditions, the result is an expansion of constitutional rights, rather than, as Justice Scalia advocated in this case, a contraction.

    One puzzling aspect of the decision was a concurring opinion by Justice Kennedy, who said that he wished to underscore the point that "the continued operation of the exclusionary rule, as settled and defined by our precedents, is not in doubt." Nonetheless, he signed the part of Justice Scalia's opinion that suggested that the exclusionary rule rested on an increasingly weak foundation.

    Justice Breyer argued that "the court destroys the strongest legal incentive to comply with the Constitution's knock-and-announce requirement. And the court does so without significant support in precedent."

    He called the majority's argument "an argument against the Fourth Amendment's exclusionary principle itself," adding, "And it is an argument that this court until now has consistently rejected."
  2. Zak Smith

    Zak Smith Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 24, 2002
    Fort Collins, CO, USA.
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