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Supreme Court Decision in Knock and Announce Case

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The Supreme Court's 5 to 4 decision in the case of Hudson v. Michigan on Thursday is a confrontation between two distinct views on law enforcement. The decision allows the introduction of criminal evidence uncovered during a warranted search, even when the police did not properly knock and announce their presence as required by an earlier Supreme Court decision. Critics of the decision, including the Cato Institute and the ACLU, fear that it will allow paramilitary police units to kick in the doors of private homes, violating the privacy of all citizens. Supporters, including the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, view the decision as an important signal that the Court does not intend to extend the exclusionary rule and that police with a warrant retain some flexibility on how to conduct a search in situations where their safety is at risk or the evidence may be destroyed.

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What many critics conveniently fail to address in their commentary (the New York Times editorial on the subject is a great example) is the fact that the police in the Hudson case had a valid search warrant for the premises they entered. And the fact that the evidence seized pursuant to the search was described in the warrant.

Under these limited circumstances, the Hudson decision strikes me as no great violation of the spirit or the letter of the Fourth Amendment.

That does *not* mean that, as a matter of public policy, law enforcement agencies ought to abandon the "knock and announce" rule. On the contrary, the rule is still a constitutional requirement, and the violation of the rule may no longer trigger exclusion of evidence in a criminal trial but it still creates the potential for significant civil liability. And the officer safety issues implicated by the rule can cut both ways. Obviously, the decision gives law enforcement agencies a lot to think about.

[NOTE: The decision does nothing to impact more restrictive state statutory rules like the one in place in North Carolina. NC General Statute 15A-249 requires officers executing a search warrant to give appropriate notice of their identity and purpose before entry, and violation of this statutory rule triggers North Carolina's statutory exclusionary rule. So practitioners should check their individual statutes carefully before advising law enforcement!]

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