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Stupid Case File for February 5, 2006

SCF Editorial Commentary

Thanks to Decision of the Day for the story below.

U.S. v. Morris, 04-3775 (8th Cir., Jan. 31, 2006)

This Eighth Circuit appeal involves a curious application of the knock and announce rule, which generally requires police officers to wait a reasonable time before forcing their way into a home to execute a search warrant. Many courts have concluded that a violation of the knock and announce rule makes a search unreasonable for Fourth Amendment purposes, so that any evidence obtained must be suppressed. (The Supreme Court is presently considering this issue.)

Here, officers only waited two seconds before forcing open the defendant’s screen door, and only waited ten seconds before forcing open the inner door. The Court finds that the officers did not act reasonably in waiting only two seconds before opening the screen door. However, instead of following Eighth Circuit precedent to suppress the evidence from the search of the home, the Court reasons that there were in fact two searches in this case: a search of the small area in between the screen door and inner door, and then a search of the rest of the home following the breach of the inner door. The Court concludes that under the circumstances, the officers waited a reasonable time before forcing open the inner door, so that the second search was reasonable. Because officers discovered the contraband during this second search, there is no need to suppress any evidence.

Commentary: Stupid challenges to searches like this often make some law enforcement officers ask the question "Why bother?". Yes, the ruling is in our favor, as it should be. But did we really have to waste all that time, effort, and tax-payer money to come to this conclusion?


Blogger Malinda777 said...

Yep...our tax dollars at work again while they decided how many attorneys it takes to "screw in a lightbulb".

February 06, 2006 3:26 AM  
Blogger David said...

Sounds like some of the UK drug searches in the 1960's.....

Police would quietly tap on the door & wisper: "Police, open the door". When there was no reply, they would just kick the door down & force entry!!!!

These days they just force entry & it's up to you to get your door secured & pay for the service!!!!

February 08, 2006 12:25 PM  

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