Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Rehnquist and the Supremes:You can'tCan Hurry Love

Police officers executing a search warrant do not violate constitutional rights by waiting only 15 to 20 seconds after knocking and announcing their presence before using force to enter a suspect's residence, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.

The unanimous decision written by Justice David Souter held that officers who searched for cocaine in a suspect's apartment in Las Vegas did not violate the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures of evidence.

He said the officers, who forced their way in after only a brief pause, were justified because of the "exigent circumstances" that the drugs could be disposed of if they waited any longer.

"We think that after 15 or 20 seconds without a response, police could fairly suspect that cocaine would be gone if they were reticent any longer," Souter wrote in the ruling.
Everyone who always answers the door within 20 seconds raise your hand? I'm sure we must be missing some information here. Even if it's a one room efficiency ...but hey, we need to keep filling our prisons with those drug offenders because, doggone it, the practice has worked so well up to now.
Banks said he did not hear the officers knock and announce their presence because he was in the shower. The officers found him standing by the bathroom, having just come out of the shower.

Souter said the relevant inquiry was not whether Banks was in the shower and that it might have taken him longer than 20 seconds to reach the door.

The relevant inquiry, he said, is the amount of time it would take for Banks to destroy the cocaine. There was no indication the police knew Banks was in the shower and was unaware that they wanted to search the apartment, he added.
Did the police have any indication Banks was aware they wanted to search? This seems a relevant inquiry to me if they wish to invoke exigent circumstances.
The justices overturned a decision by a U.S appeals court in San Francisco that the search was unconstitutional because the officers did not wait a reasonable amount of time.

Souter said other federal appeals courts have routinely held that similar wait times of 15 to 20 seconds to be reasonable in drug cases that involve easily disposable evidence.
The Ninth, like Rodney Dangerfield, gets no respect.


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