Justices May Ok No-Knock Drug Searches

The Supreme Court seemed to give serious consideration Monday to letting police enter homes without announcing themselves if they have court warrants to search for drugs.

In a lively debate over a Madison, Wis., drug raid, the court contemplated creating a blanket exception to its 1995 ruling that said no-knock entries usually are unlawful.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy noted that the court recently ruled that police officers can, if they deem it necessary for self-protection, order all passengers out of vehicles stopped for routine traffic violations.

“Isn’t this just as sensible?” he asked about allowing no-knock entries.

But some justices wondered aloud whether such an exception would swallow the 1995 rule. “Aren’t we just gutting what we said a couple of years ago?” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked.

While it was clear the court does not want to endanger officers’ lives unnecessarily, the justices voiced frustration about the lack of statistical guidance.

“As far as we know, (police) are as apt to be hurt if they don’t knock and announce as if they do,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court allowed no-knock searches in all felony drug cases when it upheld Steiney Richards’ drug conviction.

Madison police did not knock on the door to Richards’ hotel room before bursting in on him at 3:40 a.m. on Dec. 31, 1991. Richards, a 19-year-old from Detroit, was arrested after jumping out a window.

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