Evidence Allowed in No-Knock Raid; Court Says Rule Not a Protection

Article excerpt


Evidence seized by police officers who have a warrant but fail to follow the "knock and announce" rule before entering a suspect's home is still admissible in court, a divided 5-4 Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said a long-established knock-and-announce rule never was intended to protect a person's right to prevent the government "from seeing or taking evidence described in a warrant."

Justice Scalia, noting that Detroit police admitted that they violated the rule in a drug raid, said that regardless of the "misstep," the officers would have seized the drugs and gun inside the house when executing the warrant.

The majority opinion said allowing judges to throw out such incriminating evidence "always entails .. the risk of releasing dangerous criminals .." and would "generate a constant flood of alleged failures to observe the rule."

"Another consequence .. would be police officers' refraining from timely entry after knocking and announcing .. producing preventable violence against officers in some cases, and the destruction of evidence in many others," Justice Scalia wrote.

Joining in the majority opinion were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

The minority opinion, written by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, called the ruling "doubly troubling." It "destroys the strongest legal incentive to comply with the Constitution's knock-and-announce" and did so "without significant support in precedent."

"I can find nothing persuasive in the majority's opinion that could justify its refusal to apply the rule," Justice Breyer said. "Without that unlawful entry they would not have been inside the house; so there would have been no discovery.

"Of course, had the police entered the house lawfully, they would have found the gun and drugs. But that fact is beside the point," he said. …