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Supreme Court Announces 'No Knock But OK to Pounce' Rule

The US Supreme Court has changed the "Knock and Announce Rule" to "No Knock, but OK to Pounce."  MIPTC is still reviewing the opinion, and will provide updates later today or tomorrow.  You can read about the opinion, and see the actual opinion here.  

6/16  Yes, I changed the headline and the intro after reading the case.  That's one of the dangers of headline writing before you actually do the work.  Oops.

When the police executed a warrant, they were required under the Fourth Amendment to knock first and then announce their presence.  You've seen the process innumerable times on television (if you thankfully haven't been on the receiving end of a battering ram and gun barrels).  The police bang on the door, yell "Police, open up" and then they break the door down.  There's no set time that they're required to wait between the knock and announce, but we do know a very short time isn't enough.  Emily Post it's not, however.

The court cited many reasons why they rejected this rule:  social costs in excluding otherwise incriminating evidence if the rule is violated, releasing dangerous criminals, restraint by police officers that risk injury to them, destruction of evidence and deterrence.  Conservatives on the court won over the liberal wing on this one, 5-4, with Alito apparently providing the swing vote.  The case was reargued after O'Connor left, who likely would have tipped the scales 5-4 against given the style of her questions in the oral arguments.

One wonders whether it's a case of bad facts making law, and whether the decision would have been the same had the police raided the wrong home.  Here, the raid found drugs and guns, and large rocks of cocaine in the defendants pockets. 

The old "knock and announce" law was described by the court as an "ancient' law, extending back to English jurisprudence, and although a short opinion, it drew a much longer dissent from Justice Breyer.  His perspective on the case knocks the majority for exercising judicial instinct rather than respecting precedent and honoring Constitutional requirements.

The majority, on the other hand, believe that the police are well-trained and use adequate discretion when exercising search warrants.  The Court believes that there is no need to deter the police from violating the Constitution because they're not doing it now.

What's your read on it?

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, June 15, 2006 at 15:30 Comments Closed (0) |
 
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