Fourth Amendment and the Knock and Announce Rule Essay

Pages: 12 (3956 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 12  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Law  (general)

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] In the case of law enforcement officers and the Reynolds clan, the moral purpose swings both ways. The Fourth Amendment is there to protect citizens -- even persons like the Reynolds brothers -- from undue imposition; but it is also there to provide law enforcement with parameters for how they must act in their efforts to gather information and/or arrest suspects. Because the Fourth Amendment itself offers no substantial say on matters as they stand today (the knock-and-wait doctrine is something that has grown organically in law enforcement over the years, beginning in the 20th century -- and electronic surveillance is something the Founding Fathers never envisioned), police have some leeway in how they act, thanks to the interpretation of the Amendment by courts across the country throughout time.

The moral purpose of the law remains one that is meant to protect citizens from authoritarian aggression. But when it comes to police doing their job -- it is much more forgiving; such at least is how the courts tend to see it. So long as police can produce probable cause, reasonable suspicion, consent, or exigency, they are typically not begrudged not obtaining a warrant by courts. Thus, Cyrus Reynolds and his sons may feel that their Fourth Amendment rights have been trampled on, but hallowed usage in terms of how law enforcement officers are able to circumvent warrant laws puts the Reynolds' argument in a poor light. Considering that there was eyewitness testimony given of the Reynolds' proximity to the scene of the crime minutes prior to its execution and that the crime itself resembled ones that the Reynolds had previously committed, the police certainly had probable cause to conduct a search and make an arrest. And the exigency of the matter -- considering that the suspects were armed, had acted violently, and had stolen valuable goods that could be sold -- all of this provided police with the necessary grounds (as far as courts have traditionally been concerned) to enter the Reynolds home without permission, conduct a search and make an arrest. Thus, morally speaking, the law is on the police's side in this case.

Legal Perspectives

From a legal perspective, the case also bears out the moral authority of the police. Legally speaking, officers are required to obtain a warrant per the conditions of the Fourth Amendment. However, the Fourth Amendment has itself been amended judicially speaking by law courts that have made decisions in favor of police acting without a warrant. Those decisions are typically based on a type of common sense associated with the broader needs of citizens and law enforcement agencies to effect a neutral balance, which favors neither one nor the other. The aim in these cases is to ensure that both citizens and law enforcement officers have everything they need -- citizens the right to privacy and protection, law enforcement officers the ability to conduct searches and seizures without being hampered by the letter of the law. In this sense, it is the spirit of the law that is used to justify police action without a warrant. The case of Hudson v. Michigan is a perfect example of this.

In Hudson v. Michigan, Officer Good and a team of police exercised the knock and announce rule (and also had a warrant) -- but the reasonable amount of time that they waited before entering was brief -- a matter of seconds. Therefore, Hudson, the individual arrested for having illegal drugs on his person along with a weapon, argued that the knock and announce rule was not adequately implemented as it did not give him time to respond. The Court ruled that Officer Good and his team of police acted with exigency because any delay in entering may have resulted in the suspect destroying evidence and/or escaping.

The opinion of the Supreme Court was a movement away from the Supreme Court opinion reached in the case of Wilson v. Arkansas, which upheld that officers should adhere to the knock-and-announce rule just thirteen years prior. In Wilson v. Arkansas, officers entered a home without announcing themselves. Wilson submitted that evidence against her should not be admissible as a result. Her conviction at the state level was upheld but the Supreme Court reversed the decision, stating that the knock and announce rule should be followed by officers. Thus, within the span of two decades, two opposite conclusions had been reached by the Supreme Court on the legal perspective of law enforcement entering a home. What had happened in the intervening years between 1995 and 2008? One tragic incident occurred that essentially re-shaped the way the country viewed the role of law enforcement -- 9/11.

In the post-9/11 world, law enforcement agencies have been granted a great deal more authority than they previously held. Much of this is due to the Patriot Act, a massive bill which granted agencies more freedom regarding surveillance, reducing limitations traditionally placed on them by the Fourth Amendment and the precedent set by earlier Court decisions. 9/11 transformed the legal landscape -- security trumped privacy concerns in virtually all aspects. For this reason, it can be seen why the Supreme Court would uphold a legal perspective that defended the citizen's rights in 1995 but then uphold a legal perspective that defended law enforcement's needs in 2008. The culture of the country had changed from rights-oriented to security-oriented and the Court's opinion essentially reflected this change. And as Harawa (2013) observes, "safety" is the new reason that the Fourth Amendment can be circumvented: safety is the new exigency, the new probable cause, the new reasonable belief, and the new consent (p. 33).

Merits and Lack Thereof of the Ultimate Results

In terms of the Reynolds case, the merits of the law regarding the Fourth Amendment as it is interpreted today in the post-9/11, law enforcement-friendly world, the police team's actions are likely to be upheld on the basis of exigency and probable cause. Safety could also be utilized as a reason and perhaps set new precedent in the Court should the case be one that comes to trial. The merit of this interpretation, of course, is that two criminals -- the Reynolds brothers -- are arrested, convicted, their conviction upheld, and the streets made safer as a result. The merit is evident: the police are not hampered by time-consuming requests for a warrant and are able to do their job effectively and efficiently; the criminals are surprised by the visit and the quickness with which they are found -- and thus they have no time or opportunity to get rid of the stolen goods or to escape the premises undetected. The suspects are apprehended by law enforcement, and stolen goods are returned to the rightful owner.

This in itself suggests that pragmatically speaking -- i.e., from the standpoint of the common good -- there is merit in the law being interpreted from a law enforcement-friendly perspective (in other words, a perspective that affords officers substantial leeway in how the approach citizens whom they suspect of a crime). However, part of the reason that the case can be viewed favorably is that no violence resulted and evidence was found. But one should consider the outcome of the situation had neither one of these consequences been the case. For instance, what would be the opinion not just of the public but also of a court had a shoot-out ensued and officers died? What would be the opinion had no evidence been found and the Reynolds actually been acquitted or never even charged at all? Surely, the view of the case would shift based on these negative outcomes.

The fact is that the results color the interpretation or view of events. Favorable results color favorably the practices and put an acceptable gloss on behavior that might otherwise be critically viewed were a less favorable outcome to follow. Because no one was injured and the suspects were apprehended with weapon and stolen goods in their possession it is safe to assume that the actions of the police will not be critically viewed by either the public or the court.

Yet there is one other point to consider. This is the aftermath of the arrest and the inability of any of the victims of the burglary to identify Peter. In fact, only Mr. Jackson is able to identify Steve Reynolds as the man who first comes to the door -- and it is Peter, not Steve, who assaults Mr. Jackson and renders him unconscious. Neither Mrs. Jackson nor her daughter are able to identify either suspect. What role, therefore, does their inability to place a finger on Peter play in the case?

It could play a significant role, especially since there is no one who can act as… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Fourth Amendment and the Knock and Announce Rule.  (2016, August 7).  Retrieved December 17, 2018, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/fourth-amendment-knock-announce-rule/4849426

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" Fourth Amendment and the Knock and Announce Rule."  Essaytown.com.  August 7, 2016.  Accessed December 17, 2018.
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