Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Some Things You Just Have To Share

Did you ever hear or read a story that you just had to share with others? This St. Joseph News-Press (Saint Joseph, Missouri) article would be one of those stories. The date it was published is reason enough, July 4, 2006. Go ahead and kiss the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution good bye.

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7/4/2006

Court ruling opens door to officers in searches

Alyson Raletz
Public Safety Reporter

Law enforcement could be banging on fewer doors in Buchanan County in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The 5-4 ruling gives officers serving search warrants the green flag to storm into residences and secure evidence without so much as a knock.

"I think it's a good thing. There's always a danger of persons destroying evidence," Patrol Buchanan County Sheriff's Department Capt. Howard Judd said. " I have had it happen to me a number of times with people flushing dope before we could get in."

Police for years have had the authority to serve search warrants without knocking, but only if they could prove the suspects possessed firearms, had stated they would destroy evidence or other exigent circumstances.

Now that burden of proof has disappeared, local officers are both relieved and hesitant to change their procedures.

The St. Joseph Police Department doesn't have a written policy on serving search warrants, but Capt. Kevin Castle, who reviews department procedures annually, said he doesn't anticipate a big change in operations.

"The ruling is really a reaffirmation of what's already going on." Mr. Castle said, noting city police only refrain from knocking in certain circumstances.

Mr. Judd said the Sheriff's Department soon plans to revisit its policy, which has been to always announce the search warrant prior to serving it, even if the circumstances allow deputies to skip the knock.

"That was important for the safety of the officers and the suspects," he said. "My thoughts are that we will always announce so no one can mistake that we're police."

Prior court decisions argued knocking before warrant service helped protect the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches.

Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who retired before the case was decided in June, openly expressed reservations in January when the case was first argued.

She asked, "Is there no policy of protecting the homeowner a little bit and the sanctity of the home from this immediate entry?"

A St. Joseph attorney shares her concerns.

"Our privacy and individuality has been chipped away a little bit by this Supreme Court decision," said Dan Radke, who occasionally substitutes as a public defender for Buchanan County.

But Drug Strike Force investigators don't see it that way.

"It never should've been like that in the first place," acting commander Lt. Steve Gumm said.

Mr. Gumm used to serve as the unit's point person during tactical operations and was responsible for knocking and yelling the announcement before investigators bolted into the unknown.

"In the meantime, they're going to the bathroom and flushing as fast as they can flush," he said.

Now that officers have freedom from door pounding, investigators could seek more warrants from county judges. In the past, investigators were reluctant to serve warrants at residences known to have stashes of methamphetamine or cocaine, which are easier to flush, compared to drugs like marijuana.

In lieu of losing evidence, Mr. Gumm said investigators instead would attempt to catch suspects transporting the drugs in plain sight and avoid going to the residences altogether.

The drug unit is far from mandating knock-free searches in every case, however.

"It will depend on what kind of drugs are being used," he said.

The Associated Press

contributed to this report.

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I'm never surprised to read about our Constitution being attacked, but I was a little surprised by the date the News-Press chose to publish the article.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

4 Comments:

Blogger Mark said...

I have to disagree with you on this one David. I think the police should be given every tactical advantage in dealing with criminals. People know when they are breaking the law and I have absolutely no sympathy for law breakers when the lives of law enforcers are on the line. I want the cops to win and win fast. If a person doesn't respect the law why should the law respect them?

2:46 PM  
Blogger David Schantz said...

Mark, The police have been known to show up at the wrong address all across the country. Just suppose someone with a concealed carry permit has just came home and is in the process of putting his or her weapon away. Their front door is kicked in, another case of the police at the wrong address. The honest citizen thinking they are defending themself, home and family will soon be out gunned and dead. Don't get me wrong, I do support the police, but they are only human, and humans do make mistakes.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

3:01 PM  
Anonymous Jake Porter said...

Mark,

Perhaps you have never heard of Cory Maye. The police showed up at his address and possibly used a no knock warrant. Maye is believed to have accidentally shot a police officer. Now Maye is on death row. Maye is not believed to have been a drug user.

It also depends on what you believe is a crime. Is a cancer patient using marijuana a criminal or are the government officials denying the cancer patients criminals.

Unjust laws should be broken. I own my body and it is my decision what to place in my body not the governments decision or your decision.

This country has been fighting a war on drugs for five decades and has failed. Prohibition does not work.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Katherine Thayer said...

I have been surfing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never discovered any attention-grabbing post like yours. It's nice enough for me.

4:23 AM  

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