Knock, Knock. How Quickly Can The Cops Break In?

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Lashawn Banks’s Las Vegas apartment was raided by police as he took a shower in 1998. Today, the Supreme Court considered whether the quick entry violated Banks’s privacy rights under the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.

The Christian Science Monitor says the Justices are studying what is a reasonable amount of time between the first knock and the announcement that law-enforcement officers with a search warrant are breaking down a door. The court may examine the appropriate sanction when police are too quick with a battering ram. Should all evidence and statements be excluded at trial?

After the search found guns, cash, and 11 ounces of crack, Banks, pleaded guilty to drug and weapons charges and was sentenced to an 11-year prison term. A federal appeals court later ruled that the police acted too hastily in breaking down Banks’s and that nothing seized could e used as evidence against him.

U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson says that “officers executing a search warrant routinely are required to make quick judgments based on reasonable probabilities and without knowing what is going on inside a residence.”

Several appeals courts have upheld intervals between knocking and entering of between seven and 20 seconds. Law Prof. Tracey Maclin of Boston University says, “Time yourself. See how long it takes to get out of bed, put on a robe, go downstairs and answer the door. It will take at least 30 seconds, and that is assuming you are awake with the first knock.”


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