Sunday, June 18, 2006

Gunfight at the OK Corral!

In what looks like a return of the Old West, a gunfight between the cops and outlaws may be brewing. You see, boys and girls, in a decision rendered last week, the US Supreme Court decided 5 – 4 (guess how our new boys voted, boys and girls!) that the pesky old exclusionary rule wouldn’t apply if the cops didn’t knock before entering to execute a search warrant. The case is Hudson v. Michigan, No. 04-1360; the majority opinion was written by Antonin Scalia.

The rule used to be that the cops had to knock and identify themselves before entering, unless the warrant specifically authorized otherwise. In an analysis of the opinion in the online ABA Journal, this was written about the opinion:
The knock-and-announce rule, under which police are required to wait before entering a suspect’s residence, "has never protected … one’s interest in preventing the government from seeing or taking evidence described in a [search] warrant," Scalia wrote. "Since the interests that were violated in this case have nothing to do with the seizure of the evidence, the exclusionary rule is inapplicable."

Here’s what some defense lawyers see (from the same article):
Some defense lawyers say they fear more violent searches as a result of the decision. John Wesley Hall, a Little Rock, Ark., criminal defense lawyer who argued a 1995 knock-and-announce case before the Supreme Court, says that while preparing the appeal, he came across reports of police shot during raids.

"It was never mentioned whether they knocked, but they just came barging in," he says. "This opinion is just going to lead to more violence, and blood will be on the Supreme Court’s hands. Apparently, in the Supreme Court, life is cheap."

And here’s some more:
In the past decade, unannounced searches have increased, says Timothy Lynch, director of the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice, who authored an amicus brief on Hudson’s behalf.

"There’s been a disturbing trend going on in law enforcement with paramilitary-type raids that are very aggressive," the D.C. lawyer says.

And we haven’t even talked about the NRA’s latest push for shoot first and ask questions later laws around the country. Essentially, these laws provide a defense to an armed citizen who “feels threatened” and shoots another, whether it turns out the shooter was acting in actual self defense or not. The Minnesota Legislature rebuffed efforts to adopt this legislation in Minnesota this year, but it’ll be back. The law is already on the books in some states, including of course Florida, with some results you’ll want to read about, boys and girls.

Spot’s advice, all you law enforcement officers out there – especially the plain clothes ones – is identify yourself before you barge in! You don’t want anybody to “feel threatened.”

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