Failure to 'Knock and Announce' Leads to Suppression

by TChris

Busting down a door is much more exciting than knocking and waiting for an answer, but unless the police have a good reason not to knock, the Fourth Amendment requires officers executing a search warrant to "knock and announce" their presence and to give the occupant a reasonable time to answer. What amount of time is "reasonable" is often a hotly contested question, but a judge in Maricopa County, Arizona held that six seconds wasn't enough.

Describing a drug raid on a Hell's Angels clubhouse as an "attack," the judge criticized the aggressive police practices used during the search.

Agents knocked at the door and waited just six seconds for Michael Wayne Coffelt to answer. When he didn't, they used a diversionary grenade and broke a window in the back of the house.

Although Coffelt then came to the door armed with a gun, the judge noted that it is reasonable for a person who has just been attacked with a grenade to arm himself.

Officer Laura Beeler shot Coffelt with a rifle, claiming he had aimed at her and fired once. Investigators later determined Coffelt never fired ...

As a remedy for the constitutional violation, the judge suppressed much of the evidence against an Coffelt, who was accused of assaulting an officer. Coffelt's lawyer, Richard Schonfeld, said that the suppression order "effectively gutted the prosecution's case."

The knock and announce rule is designed to avoid needless violence and property destruction. The unnecessary shooting in this case demonstrates why police should follow the rule.

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