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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. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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