What is the ‘knock-and-announce’ rule?

The so-called “knock-and-announce rule” limits the power of the police and protects the rights of citizens under the Fourth Amendment, which protects against illegal searches. The Supreme Court has ruled that it can factor into determining whether or not a search was reasonable.

The root of the rule is fairly basic — it means that officers generally need to announce their presence and knock on your door before coming into your residence. This is true even when they have a warrant and therefore can legally enter, even against your objections. But they cannot just break in without warning.

There are exceptions to this rule, and one is that police can get specific no-knock warrants that mean they can come in without any announcement. Officers can get these when they think evidence could be destroyed or they may be harmed by knocking first. In instances where the “knock and announce rule” is violated, the courts will look at the supporting facts on a case-by-case basis. With a no-knock warrant, this is done in advance, rather than leaving it up to the judgment of the officers who are on the scene.

A few reasons have been given for the overall use of this rule, such as protecting the privacy of those within the residence, trying to keep property damage to a minimum, and keeping the occupants and the officers from accidentally being injured.

Though it won’t be true in every case, if officers without a no-knock warrant did not announce their presence before entering your residence, your basic rights under the Fourth Amendment may have been violated. If they were, evidence gathered during the search may be thrown out of court. You can imagine how helpful this can be, especially if the majority of the evidence comes from that single event, so you need to know how it impacts your defense strategy in Maryland.

Source: Cornell Law School, “Knock-and-announce rule,” accessed Aug. 16, 2016

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