Thursday, June 15, 2006

To Knock or Not to Knock

Let's start by completely ignoring the fact that the Associated Press reporter, Gina Holland, wrote an editorial, chock full of her opinions, instead of writing an article on the Supreme Court's ruling on whether or not evidence collected via a search warrant can be used in court, if the police do not knock before entering.

Gina Holland states:
The Supreme Court made it easier Thursday for police to barge into homes and seize evidence without knocking or waiting, a sign of the court's new conservatism with Samuel Alito on board.

Let's talk about the real issue. If a police officer does not knock, even after announcing their presence, before entering a home, does the evidence that is collected in that police raid stand up in court, or should it be tossed out?

The Supreme Court decided on Thursday, that yes, the evidence is still admissible in court. This was a tough one for the Supreme Court. They did uphold an earlier lower court ruling that stated the evidence could be used in court.

For a little background on how this ended up in front of the Supreme Court, here is a quick explanation of what happened. In 1998, Detroit police, armed with a search warrant, entered the home of Booker Hudson and found a loaded gun next to Mr. Hudson, along with his rock cocaine. Detroit police, approached Hudson's home, announced their presence, waited 3 to 5 seconds before entering, however, they did not knock. Hudson's lawyer claims that because the police did not knock, that all of the evidence collected at the home of Mr. Hudson should not be allowed in court.

In 1961, the Supreme Court upheld the "knock and announce requirement" as added protection for citizens, in support of the 4th Amendment against "unreasonable searches".

The question that the Supreme Court had to face yesterday, is whether or not to allow the suppression of evidence gathered at the Hudson home, because the police did not knock. The Supreme Court upheld the Michigan appellate court ruling that allowed the evidence to be used against Mr. Hudson.

I can certainly understand why many folks would be concerned with yesterday's rulings, perhaps this will help-

Does yesterday's ruling still require police officers to announce their presence and knock before entering a home, even if they have a search warrant?

Yes, the police are still required to knock and announce their presence before entering a home. Yesterday's ruling did not change this.

Justice Kennedy writes:
"It bears repeating that it is a serious matter if law enforcement officers violate the sanctity of the home by ignoring the requisites of lawful entry"

If police do not knock, but they have a legal search warrant- can the evidence collected still be used in a court of law?

Yes, according to yesterday's decision, the evidence collected with a search warrant can be used in a court of law.

USA Today:
Alito sided fully with Justice Antonin Scalia's majority opinion, which emphasized that tossing out evidence acquired in violation of the knock-and-announce rule — but with a valid warrant — could mean "releasing dangerous criminals."

If the police do not knock and announce, but are armed with a search warrant, and the police enter your home to conduct this warrant, what can an average citizen do about it?

On this, all of the Justices seem to agree. You can find yourself a civil rights attorney and sue the police department. However, the evidence collected against you, can and will be used to convict you of a crime.

In my opinion, yesterday's ruling by the Supreme Court, was not an easy ruling, but it was a good ruling. The days of murders, rapists and drug dealers getting off on a technicality took a huge hit yesterday.

A word of warning to the police officers- make life easier on yourself and follow the rules. The citizens of this great country are counting on you to keep us safe. Please do not screw up this up and continue to let the thugs in our society roam our streets. We are counting on you to do things the right way and follow the rules.

As a society we need to stop handcuffing our police officers and starting letting these officers handcuff the criminals.


BBG said...

I sure hope Gina is correct.

Kate said...

Since they were armed with a warrant, I see no problem in announcing but not knocking. There must have a good reason the police had a warrant to begin with, and standing in front of one side of the door, while a slime ball has a loaded gun on the other, it just makes sense to me. But then, I'm no legal scholar, and the Justices are. :)

jeff said...

As long as they have a warrant to search, I have no problem with the decision. I just dont want it to get down to not even needing a warrant.