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Supreme Court: Police don't have to knock

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060616/ap_on_go_su_co/scotus_police_searches Top court upholds no-knock police search By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer 16
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 15, 2006
      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060616/ap_on_go_su_co/scotus_police_searches

      Top court upholds no-knock police search

      By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer 16 minutes
      ago

      WASHINGTON - 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.

      The court, on a 5-4 vote, said judges cannot throw out
      evidence collected by police who have search warrants
      but do not properly announce their arrival.

      It was a significant rollback of earlier rulings
      protective of homeowners, even unsympathetic
      homeowners like Booker Hudson, who had a loaded gun
      next to him and cocaine rocks in his pocket when
      Detroit police entered his unlocked home in 1998
      without knocking.

      The court's five-member conservative majority,
      anchored by new Chief Justice John Roberts and Alito,
      said that police blunders should not result in "a
      get-out-of-jail-free card" for defendants.

      Dissenting justices predicted that police will now
      feel free to ignore previous court rulings requiring
      officers with search warrants to knock and announce
      themselves to avoid running afoul of the
      Constitution's Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable
      searches.

      "The knock-and-announce rule is dead in the United
      States," said David Moran, a Wayne State University
      professor who represented Hudson. "There are going to
      be a lot more doors knocked down. There are going to
      be a lot more people terrified and humiliated."

      Supporters said the ruling will help police do their
      jobs.

      "People who are caught red-handed with evidence of
      guilt have one less weapon to get off," said Kent
      Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice
      Legal Foundation.

      The case provides the clearest sign yet of the court
      without Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

      Hudson had lost his case in a Michigan appeals court.
      Justices agreed to hear his appeal last June, four
      days before O'Connor's surprise announcement that she
      was retiring.

      O'Connor was still on the bench in January when his
      case was first argued, and she seemed ready to vote
      with Hudson. "Is there no policy of protecting the
      home owner a little bit and the sanctity of the home
      from this immediate entry?" she asked.

      She retired before the case was decided, and a new
      argument was held this spring so that Alito could
      participate, apparently to break a 4-4 tie.

      Four justices, including Alito and Roberts, would have
      given prosecutors a more sweeping victory but did not
      have the vote of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a
      moderate conservative.

      Ronald Allen, a Northwestern University Law professor,
      said the ruling "suggests those four would be happy to
      consider overturning" a 1961 Supreme Court opinion
      that said evidence collected in violation of the
      Fourth Amendment cannot be used in trials. "It would
      be a significant change," he said.

      Kennedy joined in most of the ruling but wrote to
      explain that he did not support ending the knock
      requirement. "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," he said.

      Kennedy said that legislatures can intervene if police
      officers do not "act competently and lawfully." He
      also said that people whose homes are wrongly searched
      can file a civil rights lawsuit.

      Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said
      that there are public-interest law firms and attorneys
      who specialize in civil rights grievances.

      Detroit police acknowledge violating the
      knock-and-announce rule when they called out their
      presence at Hudson's door, failed to knock, then went
      inside three seconds to five seconds later. The court
      has endorsed longer waits, of 15 seconds to 20
      seconds. Hudson was convicted of drug possession.

      "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.

      Four justices complained in the dissent that the
      decision erases more than 90 years of Supreme Court
      precedent.

      "It weakens, perhaps destroys, much of the practical
      value of the Constitution's knock-and-announce
      protection," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for himself
      and Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and
      Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

      Breyer said that while police departments can be sued,
      there is no evidence of anyone collecting much money
      in such cases.

      The case is Hudson v. Michigan, 04-1360.

      ___

      On the Net:

      Supreme Court decisions: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/05slipopinion.html
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