The general rule is that officers need a search warrant to enter a home and conduct a search. There are some exceptions to that general rule, but today we are going to talk about a specific type of search. A search where officers enter a home without knocking and announcing their presence.
Even when an officer is equipped with a search warrant, they must verbally announce their authority and purpose for being present before entering a building to execute a search warrant.
Issuance of a "No-Knock" Warrant
Officers may apply for, and courts may issue, a search warrant that includes a "no-knock" provision. A court issuing a search warrant may only authorize a "no-knock" entry only when:
- If there is a particularized showing of danger to the police; or
- There is a likelihood that evidence will be destroyed if the police announce their presence.
The courts have ruled that cops cannot just say that "in my general experience drugs can be destroyed easily." The law enforcement officers must include in their affidavit specific facts and circumstances justifying a "no-knock" provision, they cannot rely on generalizations.
What Happens if Officers Get a "No-Knock" Warrant Based on Generalizations?
This situation was dealt with by the Georgia Court of Appeals back in 2012. In State v. Cash, law enforcement officers applied for a search warrant and requested a "no-knock" provision. In support of this request, the officers included in their affidavit the following:
It has been the experience of this affiant that subjects package the illegal narcotics in ways to be easily destroyed. Based on the affiant's knowledge, training, and experience that persons involved with illegal narcotic activity commonly have in their possession that is on their person, at their residence, firearms and ammunition, including but not limited to handguns, pistols, rifles, shotguns, and other weapons to protect and secure the proceeds from illegal narcotics and the illegal narcotics. The trash pull also revealed that [the drug suspect] is possibly in the military and therefore has knowledge on firearms and [their] use. In order to save the illegal narcotics from being destroyed and for the safety of the officers involved[,] the affiant would ask for a [n]o-[k]nock [p]rovision to be added to the search warrant.
The court of appeals found that this information was not specific enough and that it was simply generalizations.
Because the information was insufficient to authorize the no-knock warrant, the trial court decided the drugs had to be thrown out of court and the Georgia Court of Appeals agreed.
What Happens when Officers Enter a Home Without a "No-Knock" Provision?
If officers enter a home without a "no-knock" provision and there are no other exigent circumstances that permit their entry without announcing their authority, then the evidence should be suppressed by the trial court.
Officers May Not Just Enter a Home without Announcing Their Presence
There are two primary ways to challenge law enforcement's forceful entry into a home without announcing their presence.
- That they had permission to enter the home without knocking, but the judge messed up in giving them that permission; or
- The entered as if they had permission to do a "no-knock" entry, but they did not have permission.
If you have been aggrieved by an illegal search at the hands of your state government please contact us today and let us help you.