The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The Fourth Amendment’s
general touchstone of reasonableness . . . governs the method of execution of the warrant. 1 Until recently, however, most such issues have been dealt with by statute and rule. 2 It was a rule at common law that before an officer could break and enter he must give notice of his office, authority, and purpose and must in effect be refused admittance, 3 and until recently this has been a statutory requirement in the federal system 4 and generally in the states. In Ker v. California, 5 the Court considered the rule of announcement as a constitutional requirement, although a majority there found circumstances justifying entry without announcement.
In Wilson v. Arkansas, 6 the Court determined that the common law
knock and announce rule is an element of the Fourth Amendment reasonableness inquiry. The rule is merely a presumption, however, that yields under various circumstances, including those posing a threat of physical violence to officers, those in which a prisoner has escaped and taken refuge in his dwelling, and those in which officers have reason to believe that destruction of evidence is likely. The test, articulated two years later in Richards v. Wisconsin, 7 is whether police have
a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing their presence, under the particular circumstances, would be dangerous or futile, or that it would inhibit the effective investigation of the crime. In Richards, the Court held that there is no blanket exception to the rule whenever officers are executing a search warrant in a felony drug investigation; instead, a case-by-case analysis is required to determine whether no-knock entry is justified under the circumstances. 8 Similarly, if officers choose to knock and announce before searching for drugs, circumstances may justify forced entry if there is not a prompt response. 9 Recent federal laws providing for the issuance of warrants authorizing in certain circumstances
no-knock entries to execute warrants will no doubt present the Court with opportunities to explore the configurations of the rule of announcement. 10 A statute regulating the expiration of a warrant and issuance of another
should be liberally construed in favor of the individual. 11 Similarly, just as the existence of probable cause must be established by fresh facts, so the execution of the warrant should be done in timely fashion so as to ensure so far as possible the continued existence of probable cause. 12