Academic journal article Harvard Law Review

Fourth Amendment - Exclusionary Rule - California Superior Court Holds That the Knock-and-Announce Requirement Is Applicable When an Absent Third Party Has Consented to Search

Academic journal article Harvard Law Review

Fourth Amendment - Exclusionary Rule - California Superior Court Holds That the Knock-and-Announce Requirement Is Applicable When an Absent Third Party Has Consented to Search

Article excerpt


Last Term, the Supreme Court decided two cases clarifying what constitutes a reasonable Fourth Amendment search of an individual's home. In Georgia v. Randolph, (1) the Court held that police cannot enter a home pursuant to the consent of one co-tenant when another co-tenant is present and objects. (2) A few months later, in Hudson v. Michigan, (3) the Court ruled that exclusion is not a viable remedy for violations of the knock-and-announce rule. (4) To date, however, the Court has not explicitly dealt with the issue at the intersection of these two cases: to what extent is knock notice required in cases of third-party consent? Recently, in People v. West, (5) a California state trial court became perhaps the first in the country to address this question following the issuance of Randolph and Hudson. The court held that "[w]hen an absent third party gives consent for the search of a residence the knock notice requirement is fully applicable" (6) and granted the defendant's motion to suppress evidence. (7) This ruling ignored the Supreme Court's treatment of knock-and-announce as a limited historical concept, as highlighted in Hudson, and failed to recognize that the search in West fell squarely within the Court's definition of reasonableness under Randolph. This misreading of precedent appears to stem from the court's concern over the amount of protection provided to the defendant in the absence of knock notice. (8) But if the result mandated by the law in this case is problematic, a solution may not be possible without the Supreme Court rethinking the doctrine of third-party consent or a legislature expanding the knock-and-announce rule; the court's decision to stretch the existing rule to cover the facts of this case was improper.

Shortly after midnight on May 30, 2005, Officer Chris Heinrich arrested Frank Lamantia and discovered on his person a small quantity of methamphetamine. (9) Lamantia told Officer Heinrich that he lived at a certain address in San Jose and gave the officer written permission to search that residence, as well as a key to the front door. (10) Police drove to the residence a few hours later. (11) With Lamantia waiting in a squad car nearby, Officer Heinrich approached the front door and observed lights and movement inside the house. (12) Finding the door locked, Officer Heinrich used the key to enter, without knocking or announcing his presence. (13) Inside, he encountered the defendant, Kenneth West, sitting with another man around a pool table. (14) While speaking with the defendant, Officer Heinrich observed certain symptoms of stimulant use. (15) A search of the house revealed methamphetamine, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia. (16)

At the preliminary examination, the trial judge denied the defendant's motion to suppress the evidence on the grounds of a knock-and-announce violation. (17) On appeal, this decision was reversed, and the charges were dismissed. (18) Two days later, the Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Hudson v. Michigan, and the State subsequently refiled the charges against the defendant. (19)

Following a second preliminary examination, Judge Del Pozzo granted the defendant's motion to suppress the evidence and dismissed the charges. (20) The court held that the knock-and-announce rule, under Supreme Court precedent and California Penal Code section 1531, applied fully in cases of absent third-party consent. (21) Judge Del Pozzo noted that knock notice is required for probation searches, and rea-soning by analogy, he concluded that it would be "untenable" if the defendant received "less protection than if Mr. Lamantia were on probation." (22)

The opinion went on to state that, "after Georgia v. …

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