Police Officer’s Failure to Knock and Announce Violated Fourth Amendment – Officers Were Unreasonable in Executing Warrant for Drug Seizure
In April of 2009, Detective Arcuri of the San Antonio Police Department received a tip from a confidential informant regarding a methamphetamine lab at a home in Leon Valley, Texas. After a preliminary investigation, Detective Arcuri obtained a warrant to enter the home to search for methamphetamine and executed the warrant on April 28th. Instead of knocking and announcing their presence, the officers used a battering ram to forcibly enter the property because they were allegedly concerned about the destruction of evidence and their personal safety. The Fifth Circuit ruled, however, that general concerns such as these were insufficient to justify the forcible entry and the officers should have knocked and announced their presence before entering. The court reversed and remanded to the District Court for further proceedings.
If your home or office was searched and the officers failed to knock and announce their presence, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Certain evidence that the officers gathered might not be admissible in court. Know your rights; call today.
SUMMARY OF THE CASE
In September of 2009, Lindsey Bishop and Carolyn Clark sued Detective Tony Arcuri and the City of San Antonio for use of excessive force when executing a search warrant on their residence for suspicion of methamphetamine production. Detective Arcuri received a tip from a confidential informant that the plaintiffs’ home was being used to cook methamphetamine, and obtained a search warrant to investigate the case further. After conducting a preliminary investigation, Detective Arcuri and eight other officers executed the search warrant on the home, allegedly determining that a forcible entry was necessary because of the risk of destruction of evidence and potential violence.
The officers proceeded to use a battering ram to enter the property through the front door and executed their search of the premises. Viewing this as an excessive use of force, Bishop and Clark sued for a violation of their civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The District Court granted summary judgment for both defendants, holding that the search was not unreasonable under the circumstances. Bishop and Clark then brought this appeal to the Fifth Circuit.
On Friday the Fifth Circuit reversed the District Court’s ruling, stating that the officers did not have the proper justification for the forcible entry into Bishop and Clark’s home. In analyzing the officers’ reasons for their use of force, the court stated that general assertions that there could be a risk of destruction of evidence or a general risk of violence were not sufficient to merit forcible entry. The court reasoned that, if the police had used a “knock-and-announce” approach and been denied entry for a period of time, the destruction of evidence could have justified a forcible entry. However, no attempt to knock-and-announce was used in this case.
Further, the court ruled that the general assertion that drug busts can be inherently dangerous is not sufficient to completely abandon the knock-and-announce method. Restating the settled law in the Fifth Circuit, the court reasoned that although knowledge of specific facts that would indicate a potential violent situation is not always necessary to justify a no-knock entry, reasonable suspicion of violence “must be derived from specific facts and circumstance surrounding a search.” No such facts or circumstance were present in this case.