MAJOR SUPREME COURT CASE ON SUPPRESSION OF
EVIDENCE --An Analysis.
Aaron Nisenson, General Counsel, I.U.P.A.
The Supreme Court issued a major decision, holding that
evidence seized in a search that violated the "knock and announce" rule did not
need to be suppressed at trial. Hudson v. Michigan (Docket No. 04-1360).
In the case, while the officers had a warrant to search
the suspect's home, the prosecution conceded that the officers violated the
knock and announce rule by waiting only three to five seconds between knocking
and entering. Previously, the exclusionary rule would have applied and resulted
in the exclusion of the evidence seized in the search. However, in this case
the majority ruled that suppression of the evidence was not required.
The vote in the case was five to four, with Scalia
authoring the majority opinion, Kennedy authoring a concurring opinion, and
Breyer authoring the dissent. Both majority opinions cited the improvement in
police training and discipline and the availability of civil liability as
deterrents to unconstitutional acts by officers.
Kennedy's concurring opinion most succinctly explains the
Our system, as the Court explains, has developed procedures for training police
officers and imposing discipline for failures to act competently and lawfully.
If those measures prove ineffective, they can be fortified with more detailed
regulations or legislation. Supplementing these safeguards are civil remedies,
such as those available under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, that provide restitution for
discrete harms. These remedies apply to all violations, including, of course,
exceptional cases in which unannounced entries cause severe fright and
humiliation. . . .
Suppression is another matter. Under our precedents the
causal link between a violation of the knock-and-announce requirement and a
later search is too attenuated to allow suppression. Cf. United States v.
Ramirez, 523 U.S. 65, 72, n. 3, 118 S.Ct. 992, 140 L.Ed.2d 191 (1998)
(application of the exclusionary rule depends on the existence of a "sufficient
causal relationship" between the unlawful conduct and the discovery of
evidence). When, for example, a violation results from want of a 20-second pause
but an ensuing, lawful search lasting five hours discloses evidence of
criminality, the failure to wait at the door cannot properly be described as
having caused the discovery of evidence.
An interesting issue is whether this portends a whole
scale revision of the exclusionary rule. Kennedy, whose vote was needed for the
majority, said no and limited his concurrence: "the continued operation of the
exclusionary rule, as settled and defined by our precedents, is not in doubt.
Today's decision determines only that in the specific context of the
knock-and-announce requirement, a violation is not sufficiently related to the
later discovery of evidence to justify suppression."
However, Scalia's four vote majority and Breyer's four
vote dissent, both made many of their points in much broader terms, debating the
underlying need for the exclusionary rule -- a debate that could be extended in