June 15th, 2006 12:52 PM
USSC Case - Police need not knock and identify before serving search warrants
"No Knock" warrants were once reserved for very limited, special circumstances. This ruling appears to set the stage for no-knock the be the standard rather than the exception. (Based, of course, on the CNN article - I have not seen the actual ruling yet)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that police armed with a warrant can barge into homes and seize evidence even if they don't knock, a huge government victory that was decided by President Bush's new justices.
The 5-4 ruling clearly signals the court's conservative shift following the departure of moderate Sandra Day O'Connor.
The case tested previous court rulings that police armed with warrants generally must knock and announce themselves or they run afoul of the Constitution's Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches.
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said Detroit police acknowledge violating that rule when they called out their presence at a man's door then went inside three seconds to five seconds later.
"Whether that preliminary misstep had occurred or not, the police would have executed the warrant they had obtained, and would have discovered the gun and drugs inside the house," Scalia wrote.
But suppressing evidence is too high of a penalty, Scalia said, for errors by police in failing to properly announce themselves.
I find this troubling. Yes, there are circumstances where either the evidence being sought is likely to be destroyed or the offenders involved have a propensity toward violence that mandates a no-knock service. But the vast majority of search warrant service should not reasonably require a no-knock approach.
I am concerned that this is going to lead to people being hurt. The police do, from time to time, serve a warrant on the wrong house. At least with the knock and announce approach, this sort of error is easily corrected.
If the initial approach is to kick the door in, some citizen is going to respond to what they reasonably believe is a home invasion and violence will ensue.
Seems like a bad idea to me.
June 15th, 2006 01:02 PM
I for one think this was the right ruling. In school we studied this dilemma many times. If the police must wait 3 to 5 seconds after announcing their presence, criminals are able to arm themselves and destroy evidence. Imagine serving a warrant on a terrorist cell. Once they heard the police they could simply blow up the entire building. I believe this ruling has more to do with officer safety and preserving evidence than a constitutional matter. Before the police could serve this warrant, they have to be able to convince a judge to sign off on the warrant. This ruling just makes since to me.
June 15th, 2006 01:08 PM
But those exceptional circumstances were what no-knock warrants were already in use for.
Let's say your neighbor is selling bootleg DVDs and the authorities get a warrant to search for his equipment and seize it.
It's early evening, and you are home eating dinner. You have your carry pistol on you. The front door crashes open, and several people rush in.
What will you do?
If you draw, you stand a good chance of being killed. Even though you had no unlawful intent and were engaged in no unlawful activity.
Now, what if instead the police officers knock, you go to the door, they identify themselves and present you a copy of the warrant?
You let them in, read the warrant, and politely suggest they go next door, where the warrant is actually supposed to be served. Much better outcome, yes?
I am not anti-law enforcement by any means. I just think that this ruling leads down the wrong path. No knock warrants are fine for special circumstances - and they were already legal.
June 15th, 2006 01:23 PM
Your assuming that the police are going to bring in the SWAT team on every warrant they serve. The police do make plans. I think there is a little difference between a hard core drug ring and serving a warrant on a guy making bootleg DVD's.
If it were your house, it would not be hard to see the letter POLICE in big letters on the front of their uniforms. Also even though they do not have to annouce before they go, you can bet they will be yelling POLICE GET ON THE GROUND the entire time. There were just to many cases of the police going to serve a warrant, annoucing their presence, and then they heard the toliet flushing. Law enforcement has a tough enough job as it is. They need all of the resources they can get.
June 15th, 2006 01:40 PM
No-knock warrants are a bad idea, pure and simple. They endanger both the police serving the warrants and the people being served - and that endangerment, and that infringement on all of our fourth amendment rights, outweighs any possible benefit of no-knock warrants. I would rather fear drug dealers and criminals (and retain my right to defend myself via second amendment) than have to worry about armed police barging into my home unannounced. I can already hear people saying "if you aren't a criminal you have nothing to worry about" - this is hogwash. It assumes infallibility on the part of police, and assumes that honest citizens need no protection from their government. Both assumptions would be repulsive to the framers of our constitution. The fourth amendment was meant to protect all citizens, and infringing upon that basic right is not a resource that police need or should have. As for Scalia claiming that suppressing evidence was too high a penalty for violating fourth amendment rights, I wonder then what disincentive police have for not committing this same "error" with every warrant they serve.
June 15th, 2006 01:48 PM
If my door suddenly comes crashing in without an announcement,how will that save the LEO's from getting hurt. I have a 18" 10ga. by my easy chair for just such instances. This weapon is NOT intended for LEO's but how are we supposed to know ??
Sounds way too homeland security'ish for me. Thanks lawmakers. (and Mr. Bush)--------
June 15th, 2006 01:57 PM
True, if they crash through the door there is a good chance they may get shot at. But, they aren't worried about that, you may get one but the rest will have you looking like swiss cheese from the MP-5's.
They will be deemed "justified" even though they had the wrong address.
June 15th, 2006 02:01 PM
June 15th, 2006 02:06 PM
More of your goverment protecting you.
June 15th, 2006 02:07 PM
Seriously, no-knock warrants are an abomination, something you would expect of a totalitarian society, not the USA. I am not anti-leo by ant means, but I am pro-individual rights, and in a free society therer have to be curbs on what government agents (police) can and cannot do to citizens.
"POLICE COMMISSIONER'S 24-PAGE APOLOGIA
In a remarkable break from past practice, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has issued a 24-page official report assigning blame in the catastrophic May 16 New York Police Department raid on the apartment of a church-going, 57-year-old woman, Alberta Spruill. At a tense 3:00 p.m. press conference on May 29, Kelly said, "Deficiencies were found in procedures and practices of the overall warrant process. Mistakes were made. We all make mistakes. It's a terrible tragedy that Miss Spruill lost her life." (Excerpts on Kelly's comments, including his defense of warrants and his pledge for reform, can be heard on Newsday's web site.)
The raid could hardly have gone more wrong. With no evidence of wrong-doing beyond the word of a drug-using known criminal, the NYPD secured a no-knock warrant to invade Spruill's apartment. At 6:15 a.m. on May 16, they executed the warrant by breaking down Spruill's apartment door as she was dressing to go to her city job, which she had held for 29 years. Incorrectly anticipating both resistance and a pit bull, the police detonated a flash grenade -- also called a concussion grenade -- which is used to blind and stun. The police realized almost immediately after handcuffing Spruill that the tidy apartment did not fit the informant's description of a messy place divided by a dirty curtain. But the damage was done. Spruill went into cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at 7:50 a.m. at Harlem Hospital. Her death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner"
June 15th, 2006 02:08 PM
"They will be deemed "justified" even though they had the wrong address.
If that is true, it needs to be changed. In my opinion in a case where police barged into a house for which they did not have a warrant, and killed the occupants. Every officer involved should be charged and convicted of B&E, and at least 2nd degree murder. And on the other side, if the occupant killed an officer or two and survived, they should be cleared of all charges. Just because they wear a badge, doesn't mean they get to break the law with impunity. That's what we call a police state.
June 15th, 2006 02:59 PM
Perhaps it's urban legend, perhaps it's not but I'd heard about home invaders shouting "Police, get on the ground!" to get compliance and take over the situation. I didn't find any articles on it so it may be internet rumor or etc... but can you at least see the potential for abuse here?
Originally Posted by BCurry1
June 15th, 2006 05:58 PM
There are many aspects to this very emotive subject.
Approached from one angle the ruling is logical and useful. From another angle, that being in particular the ''wrong address'' syndrome, it can have more than tragic consequences, and if wrongful deaths occur it is a bit late for someone to say ''sorry, we screwed up''.
I am totally pro (good) law enforcement and the guys who are at the sharp end but - I see this as far from foolproof. I also include in my concerns the LE impersonator problem, as a means of gaining access unchallenged.
Chris - P95
NRA Certified Instructor & NRA Life Member.
"To own a gun and assume that you are armed
is like owning a piano and assuming that you are a musician!."
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June 15th, 2006 06:07 PM
No Knocks are needed in some cases ( yes I have served a few ) but not normally , from what I have read on this judgement the court did not condone no knocks as a normal warrant service , they merely stated that (in this case ) the warrant would have been served and the evidence in question would have been found irregardless of " announcement " by LE so they would not suppress the evidence ( a gun and some dope I believe ) as being fruit of the poisonous tree , imho the case more addressed usability of evidence than police behavior or any change in warrant service from what we have today .
Now I sure am not an attorney but my take on what I have seen of the decision so far is that it did not address warrent service so much as it addressed the useability of evidince in spite of a possible procedureable error by police . The level of misconduct ( if any ) by the officers in this case did not rise to the level that the court would supress the evidince .
Make sure you get full value out of today , Do something worthwhile, because what you do today will cost you one day off the rest of your life .
We only begin to understand folks after we stop and think .
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June 15th, 2006 06:54 PM
Imagine serving a warrant on a terrorist cell. Once they heard the police they could simply blow up the entire building.
"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy" ~President James Madison.
"The pistol, learn it well, carry it always ..." ~ Jeff Cooper
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