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Search and Seizure

The Knock And Announce Requirement

The Fourth Amendment incorporates the COMMON LAW requirement that police officers entering a dwelling must knock on the door and announce their identity and purpose before attempting forcible entry. At the same time, the Supreme Court has recognized that the "flexible requirement of reasonableness should not be read to mandate a rigid rule of announcement that ignores countervailing law enforcement interests." Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U.S. 927, 115 S.Ct. 1914, 131 L.Ed.2d 976 (1995). Instead, the Court left to the lower courts the task of determining the circumstances under which an unannounced entry is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court concluded that police officers are never required to knock and announce their presence when executing a search warrant in a felony drug investigation. But the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the state high court's decision in Richards v. Wisconsin, 520 U.S. 385, 117 S.Ct. 1416, 137 L.Ed.2d 615 (U.S. 1997). In Richards the Court said Fourth Amendment does not permit a blanket exception to the knock-and-announce requirement for the execution of a search warrant in a felony drug investigation. The fact that felony drug investigations may frequently present circumstances warranting a no-knock entry, the Court said, cannot remove from the neutral scrutiny of a reviewing court the reasonableness of the police decision not to knock and announce in a particular case. Rather, it is the duty of a court to determine whether the facts and circumstances of the particular entry justified dispensing with the knock-and-announce requirement. To justify a no-knock entry, the Court stressed that police must have a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing their presence, under the particular circumstances, would be dangerous or futile, or that it would inhibit the effective investigation of the crime by, for example, allowing the destruction of evidence.

The Fourth Amendment does not hold police officers to a higher standard when a no-knock entry results in the destruction of property. U.S. v. Ramirez, 523 U.S. 65, 118 S.Ct. 992, 140 L.Ed.2d 191 (U.S. 1998). The "reasonable suspicion" standard is still applicable. No Fourth Amendment violation occurred when, the Supreme Court found, during the execution of a "no-knock" warrant to enter and search a home, police officers broke a single window in a garage and pointed a gun through the opening. A reliable confidential informant had notified the police that an escaped prisoner might be inside the home, and an officer had confirmed that possibility, the Court said. The escapee had a violent past and reportedly had access to a large supply of weapons, and the police broke the window to discourage any occupant of the house from rushing to weapons. However, excessive or unnecessary destruction of property in the course of a search may violate the Fourth Amendment, the court emphasized, even though the entry itself is lawful and the fruits of the search are not subject to suppression.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Roberts v. United States Jaycees to Secretary of StateSearch and Seizure - Overview, State Action, Reasonable Expectation Of Privacy, Probable Cause And Reasonable Suspicion, Arrest And Miranda