Search and Seizure: Supreme Court Upholds Searches Without Notice 6/16/06

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http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/440/noknocking.shtml

In a major victory for the government, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that police armed with a search warrant may enter homes and seize evidence even if they don't knock. In previous rulings citing centuries-old common law tradition, the Court had held that except in cases of "no-knock" warrants, police must generally knock and announce their presence or risk violating the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches.

danger knocks with new court ruling
The decision came on a 5-4 vote. The deciding vote came from Bush appointee Justice Samuel Alito. Most analysts believe Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom he replaced, would have voted the other way. When she heard arguments in the case before her retirement, she worried aloud that a favorable ruling for police could lead to police bursting unannounced into people's homes. "Is there no policy of protecting the home owner a little bit and the sanctity of the home from this immediate entry?" she asked.

The case, Hudson v. Michigan, came from Detroit, where police with a search warrant acknowledged violating the "knock and announce" rule by calling out their presence at the door and then entering within five seconds -- before residents had a chance to respond. Police found drugs and a weapon, and petitioner Booker Hudson was convicted at trial. He appealed, arguing that because of the Fourth Amendment violation, the evidence against him should be suppressed under the exclusionary rule. The federal appeals court agreed with Hudson, but that decision has now been overturned.

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said Detroit police admitted violating the rule, but they shouldn't be punished for what he called "a misstep." "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.

Suppressing the evidence would give Hudson a "get out of jail free card," Scalia wrote. Better that the police get a "violate the Constitution without penalty card," one supposes.

In their dissent, four justices led by Justice Stephen Breyer warned that the decision spits in the face of more than 90 years of Supreme Court precedent and centuries of common law tradition. By allowing police to violate the "knock and announce" rule without excluding the subsequent evidence, "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. At least I can find no such support in the many Fourth Amendment cases the Court has decided in the near century since it first set forth the exclusionary principle in Weeks v. United States," wrote Breyer. "Today's opinion is thus doubly troubling. It represents a significant departure from the Court's precedents. And it weakens, perhaps destroys, much of the practical value of the Constitution's knock-and-announce protection."

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Issue #440 -- 6/16/06

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Editorial: Real World Consequences | Feature: Death Toll Climbs as Fentanyl-Laced Heroin ODs Spread | Feature: Among Whites, Imprisoning Drug Users a Minority Opinion, Survey Finds | Feature: Industrial Hemp Push Underway in California, North Dakota | Offer and Appeal: Important New Legalization Video and Drug War Facts Book Available | Book Offer: Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went up in Smoke | Alert: Important Medical Marijuana Vote Coming Up in Congress -- Your Help Needed | Follow-up: Colombia Amendment Results | Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle? | Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Search and Seizure: Supreme Court Upholds Searches Without Notice | Methamphetamine: Epidemic? What Epidemic? Study Asks | Law Enforcement: Justice for Sale in Washington Border County | Europe: New Italian Government to Move to "Reduce Damage" of Tough Drug Law | Europe: Britain to Reclassify Methamphetamine as Class A Drug | Canada: Federal Medical Marijuana Program a Flop, AIDS Society Says | Weekly: This Week in History | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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