The Supreme Court made it easier today for police to barge into homes
and seize evidence without knocking or waiting, a sign of the court's new conservatism
with Samuel Alito on board.
The court, on a 5-4 vote, said judges cannot throw out evidence collected by
police who have search warrants but do not properly announce their arrival.
It was a significant rollback of earlier rulings protective of homeowners,
even unsympathetic homeowners such as Booker Hudson, who had a loaded gun next
to him and cocaine rocks in his pocket when Detroit police entered his unlocked
home in 1998 without knocking.
The court's five-member conservative majority, anchored by new Chief Justice
John Roberts and Alito, said police blunders should not result in "a get
out of jail free card" for defendants.
Dissenting justices predicted police will now feel free to ignore previous
court rulings requiring officers with search warrants to knock and announce
themselves to avoid running afoul of the Constitution's Fourth Amendment ban
on unreasonable searches.
"The knock-and-announce rule is dead in the United States," said
David Moran, a Wayne State University professor who represented Hudson. "There
are going to be a lot more doors knocked down. There are going to be a lot more
people terrified and humiliated."
Supporters said the ruling will help police do their jobs.
"People who are caught red-handed with evidence of guilt have one less
weapon to get off," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal
Justice Legal Foundation.
The case provides the clearest sign yet of the court without Justice Sandra
Hudson had lost his case in a Michigan appeals court. Justices agreed to hear
his appeal last June, four days before O'Connor's surprise announcement that
she was retiring.
O'Connor was still on the bench in January when his case was first argued,
and she seemed ready to vote with Hudson.
"Is there no policy of protecting the homeowner a little bit and the sanctity
of the home from this immediate entry?" she asked.
She retired before the case was decided, and a new argument was held this spring
so Alito could participate, apparently to break a 4-4 tie.
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