Knock-and-Announce Violation Does Not Mean Evidence is Excluded

The Ohio Supreme Court published an opinion last week examining whether the exclusionary rule is the appropriate remedy when police, executing a valid search warrant, violate the requirements of the knock-and-announce statute.

In this case, the police sought and acquired a search warrant for an apartment following the supervision of two “controlled buys” of heroin from the same apartment. Seven police officers executed the warrant at 8:30 a.m. They knocked several times. Someone inside the apartment asked, “who is it?” An officer replied, “Police. Open the door.” After a short time went by, the police officers forced the door open with a battering ram. The search turned up contraband in the form of drugs, instruments of drug trafficking, and a stolen weapon. The defendants moved to suppress this evidence.

The Ohio Supreme Court first examined the exclusionary rule’s history and how it is inextricably entwined with the Fourth Amendment. The Court also analyzed the much older knock-and-announce principle. When balancing these protections and the police’s interest in executing search warrants, the deciding factor for the Court was the valid warrant. Because the warrant was issued, the individual’s interest in the apartment abated within the scope of the search warrant. The law clearly states, “To acquire a valid search warrant, police must first convince a neutral magistrate that there is probable cause to believe there has been a crime committed, sufficient to pull aside the veil of privacy from the contents of the home.” For the Court, it made “fundamental sense” to “not restore privacy to the contents of a home to remedy the violation of a rule that applies only after the interest in the privacy of the home has been overridden” by the search warrant.

In the end, the Court determined that once a warrant has been issued, the exclusionary rule (argued thru a motion to suppress) is not the appropriate remedy. See State v. Kepler, 151 Ohio St. 3d 501, 2017-Ohio-7857