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Every Second Counts to the U.S. Supreme Court

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 52 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2004 Pages: 22,24
Joan Hopper
Date Published
January 2004
2 pages
This document discusses the amount of time a police officer must wait before entering a dwelling after knocking and announcing.
In October 2003, the United States Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in the landmark knock and announce case, United States v. Banks, 02-473 (Dec. 2, 2003). The Court determined that 15 to 20 seconds is a sufficient amount of time for law enforcement officers to wait before forcibly entering a dwelling to execute a search warrant. The Court’s ruling challenged some previously recommended guidelines for officers to use when determining whether to enter a dwelling after knocking and announcing. In Banks, law enforcement officers had correctly presumed that the suspect’s lack of a response constituted a refusal of entry, when he claimed he was in the shower and did not hear the knock and announce. The police argued that as soon as they declared their presence to Banks, he could have easily gotten rid of the evidence, in this case cocaine. The size of a dwelling is still a critical piece of information for police, but the Court said that this should not figure in the calculation of the appropriate wait time when the evidence sought could be easily destroyed. Other factors for officers to consider when determining a reasonable wait time are location of the residence, location of the officers in relation to the main living or sleeping areas of the residence, time of day, nature of the suspected offense, evidence demonstrating a suspect’s guilt, and suspect’s prior convictions. The Supreme Court rejected this piecemeal approach, stating that no template can produce sounder results than examining the totality of the circumstances. There are three other fourth amendment cases scheduled to be decided: (1) whether officers can arrest the owner of a vehicle after all occupants denied ownership of drugs and cash inside the vehicle; (2) whether police violate search and seizure rights when they execute an erroneous warrant; and (3) whether police can search a vehicle after arresting a person not in the vehicle at the time.