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The knock-and-announce rule

On Behalf of | Jan 25, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Hollywood gets a lot wrong much of the time. However, one detail it seems to get right in most films is the knock-and-announce aspect of searches and seizures. 

According to the Legal Information Institute, the knock-and-announce rule is one established under common law that requires a police officer to announce his or her presence before forcing his or her way into a residence. Per this rule, the officer must do so even if he or she possesses a warrant. As the name of the rule implies, the announcement must come in the form of a quick knock, followed by the officer’s verbalization of his or her name and intent. The officer must then wait a reasonable amount of time for a response before letting him or herself into the residence. 

The application of the knock-and-announce rule

A common defense in criminal cases that involve evidence obtained during a search and seizure is that the officer or officers entered the home “unreasonably.” When considering the validity of this claim, the judge will want to know if the officers adhered to the knock-and-announce rule. Officers’ adherence to this rule goes a long way toward establishing the reasonableness of a search. 

Another common defense is that officers gathered evidence only after violating the knock-and-announce rule. In these cases, the defendants attempt to exclude evidence obtained during the incident in question. The Supreme Court ruled in Hudson v. Michigan that a knock-and-announce rule violation does not justify the exclusion of evidence. 

Situations that warrant a no-knock approach

According to Congress.gov, an officer does not have to knock and announce his or her presence if doing so would be unreasonable. Though the courts have always held that officers need not announce their presence if doing so would create a threat of physical violence, prove futile or result in the destruction of evidence, the case Richards v. Wisconsin established a precedence that all courts now follow. Per the Supreme Court’s ruling, if the police have reasonable suspicion that announcing their presence would be dangerous or inhibit the investigation, they can forego a grand entrance.