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Justices rule on 'no-knock' warrant executions

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The Indiana Constitution doesn’t require prior judicial authorization for a “no-knock” execution of a warrant when justified by exigent circumstances, the Indiana Supreme Court held Tuesday. This is the case even if those circumstances are known by police when the warrant is obtained.

The high court released opinions in the companion interlocutory appeals of Cornelius Tyrone Lacey Sr. v. State of Indiana, No. 02S05-1010-CR-601, and Damion J. Wilkins v. State of Indiana, No. 02S03-1010-CR-604, in which the men challenged the denial of their motions to suppress evidence obtained after police forced their way into Cornelius Lacey’s home without knocking and announcing themselves while executing a search warrant. Wilkins was also at Lacey’s home when police arrived.

The men are charged with unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon and possession of marijuana. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the denial of their motions to suppress.

In Lacey, the justices delved into the men’s arguments that police knew about the exigent circumstances asserted by the state to justify the no-knock entry, but that police didn’t provide the information to the magistrate and didn’t seek and receive explicit authorization to dispense with the knock and announce procedure.

Justice Brent Dickson noted that Indiana jurisprudence hadn’t confronted whether police must obtain no-knock warrants when justified solely by information known at the time of the warrant application. The justices examined cases in federal and state courts, including some in Indiana, to hold that Article I, Section 11 of the state constitution doesn’t require prior judicial authorization for the execution of a no-knock warrant when justified by exigent circumstances, even if police know those circumstances when they get the warrant.

“Rather, courts will assess the reasonableness of entry based on the totality of the circumstances at the time the warrant was served. Constitutional uncertainty may be minimized when police, knowing in advance of the need to execute a warrant without complying with the knock and announce requirement, present the known facts when seeking the warrant and obtain express judicial authorization for a no-knock entry. This is certainly the better practice,” wrote Justice Dickson.

In Wilkins, Wilkins argued that the factual circumstances presented in the record didn’t constitute sufficient exigent circumstances to justify the no-knock execution. He claimed that the exigent circumstances relied on by the state was officer safety, that this came from Wilkins’ prior conviction for armed robbery and resisting arrest, and that the state didn’t establish that the police had any expectation that he would be at Lacey’s home when they searched the residence. Therefore, it was an unreasonable search prohibited by the federal constitution.

But suppression isn’t appropriate under federal law, and the justices affirmed the denial of his motion.

The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of their motions to suppress and summarily affirmed the Court of Appeals as to the men’s other appellate claims.

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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