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Old May 22, 2006, 10:42 AM   #1
rick_reno
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Court OKs police home entry in emergencies

Your home is your castle, unless the police want to come in.

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court reaffirmed Monday that police can enter homes in emergencies without knocking or announcing their presence.

Justices said four Brigham City, Utah, police officers were justified in entering a home after peeking through a window and seeing a fight between a teenager and adults.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the unanimous court, said that officers had a reasonable basis for going inside to stop violence.

The decision overturned a ruling by Utah’s Supreme Court that said a trial judge was correct to throw out charges stemming from the police search. The trial judge had ruled that police had violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches by failing to knock before entering the house.
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Old May 22, 2006, 11:08 AM   #2
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Your home is your castle, unless the police want to come in.
And "The Government" crawls a little further up our bungholes...

Maybe we should all just drop off a copy of our front door key at the police station so they can come and go as they please. After all, why would you object unless you have "Something To Hide?":barf: :barf: :barf: :barf:
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Old May 22, 2006, 11:24 AM   #3
Fremmer
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Are you suggesting that the police should have to obtain a warrant (or your permission) prior to entering your home if they see you beating someone up?
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Old May 22, 2006, 11:45 AM   #4
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Maybe we should all just drop off a copy of our front door key at the police station so they can come and go as they please. After all, why would you object unless you have "Something To Hide?"
Interesting, but there's a family here that might take issue with your stand. They're only here and able to take issue because a police officer did just that, an emergency entry. The house was on fire when he entered and brought them to safety. Some might call him a hero; imagine that!

But then, maybe he could have politely asked the fire to wait while he went and got a search warrant .
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Old May 22, 2006, 12:17 PM   #5
jcoiii
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Court OKs police home entry in emergencies

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Your home is your castle, unless the police want to come in.

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court reaffirmed Monday that police can enter homes in emergencies without knocking or announcing their presence.

Justices said four Brigham City, Utah, police officers were justified in entering a home after peeking through a window and seeing a fight between a teenager and adults.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the unanimous court, said that officers had a reasonable basis for going inside to stop violence.

The decision overturned a ruling by Utah’s Supreme Court that said a trial judge was correct to throw out charges stemming from the police search. The trial judge had ruled that police had violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches by failing to knock before entering the house.

So, let me get this right. Some cop looks into a window of a house and sees a fight going on. He enters the house to break up the fight. Then he (presumably) arrests someone for (presumably) domestic violence or assault. The accused challenges the charge on the grounds that the officer entered illegally? The supreme court throws that out.

And this is a violation of someone's rights how?

Let's take this to a greater absurdity. Capt Charlie used a nice example of reality, so I'll go a bit more extreme. A cop sees into a house and/or hears angry shouting. He then hears a gunshot, followed by more shouting and crying. So this cop should leave the scene and get a search warrant to enter a private residence? If you can't see the problems with this scenario or take issue with a cop trying to prevent a crime or save a life, arguments will make no difference anyway. Keep on hating.
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Old May 22, 2006, 12:19 PM   #6
Rich Lucibella
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Capt Charlie-
The facts are very much on the fence as regards the "emergency situation" that was in progress in this case.


From the Utah SC Opinion
Quote:
Four Brigham City police officers responded to a complaint of a loud party. They arrived at the offending residence at about three o'clock in the morning. They traveled to the back of the house to investigate the noise. From a location in the driveway, the officers peered through a slat fence and observed two apparently underage males drinking alcohol. The officers then entered the backyard through a gate, thereby obtaining a clear view into the back of the house through a screen door and two windows. The officers saw four adults restraining one juvenile. The juvenile broke free, swung a fist and struck one of the adults in the face. Two officers then opened the screen door and "hollered" to identify themselves. When no one heard them, they entered the kitchen. After entering, one of the officers again shouted to identify and call attention to himself. As those present in the kitchen became aware of the officers, they became angry that the officers had entered the house without permission.
Now clearly a life threatening emergency would be a justifiable reason for entry without warrant.
But teenage drinking? One teenager "swinging a fist" at several adults? That's pushing it, IMHO.

Justice Roberts referred to the incident as a "brawl" in his Opinion.

The real question is, what does this portend for future warrantless entries? I'd argue that it will depend on what the Courts rule as an "emergency"; based on this case, it doesn't appear to be a very high standard and emergency will likely include verbally overheard arguments and/or loud music (a major factor in this decision). That's not leaving much room for "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures..."
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Old May 22, 2006, 12:20 PM   #7
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Are you suggesting that the police should have to obtain a warrant (or your permission) prior to entering your home if they see you beating someone up?
No. We're suggesting that even if they witness a crime, and even if they are not invited in, that they must first

KNOCK, and more importantly

ANNOUNCE their presence and identity as police

before forcing their way in.

Otherwise, how do you know they're police, and why shouldn't you be justified in shooting these unknown home invaders? This rule of no-annouce makes it more unsafe for police officers, and far more unsafe for citizens (since now cops are gonna come in mondo trigger-happy since they're not announcing).
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Old May 22, 2006, 12:25 PM   #8
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KNOCK, and more importantly

ANNOUNCE their presence and identity as police

before forcing their way in.
They did and that is part of the reason why SCOTUS reversed the Utah Supreme Court Decision. And that paves the way for all sorts of mischief where there is considerable background noise.

Hardly a landmark decision by SCOTUS. Hardly one of their brighter days. They upheld a warrantless entry at what benefit to society? Lowering the bar for what constitutes an "emergency". In this case, the "emergency" resulted in conviction for the heinous acts of "contributing to the delinquency of a minor, disorderly conduct, and intoxication"

Does this sound like an "emergency" (eg: Life threatening) to anyone here?
BTW, I'd no idea one could be arrested for intoxication in their own home. Is any piece of the Fourth worth that?
Rich

postscipt added: Let me just add that I think the cops did the right thing. They stopped a potential fight. I just don't think any fruits of the entry should have been admissable into the later Court proceedings.
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Old May 22, 2006, 12:26 PM   #9
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oops, my bad.
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Old May 22, 2006, 12:47 PM   #10
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If witnessing a fight through the window doesn't constitute "exigent circumstances", I'm not sure what would. Fights generally have winners & losers, with the loser often suffering serious bodily harm- and occasionally death. Not to mention the fact that assault is illegal, and that "the supression of disturbances, etc." has long been held to be one of the duties of law enforcement.

This is nothing new, and I can't say as I'm surprised that the court ruled the way it did.
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Old May 22, 2006, 12:56 PM   #11
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invssgt-
Are you saying, but for the one punch thrown by a teenager at an adult, this would have been a bad bust? The trial judge thought this was a bad entry. The Utah Supreme Court agreed.

Hardly a slam-dunk issue, I think.

What the issues revolves around is a Warrantless, No-Knock (apologies to First Freedom). The trial Court held the following:
Quote:
What he should have done, as required under the 4th amendment, was knock on the door. The evidence is that there was a loud, tumultuous thing going on, and the evidence is that the occupants probably would not have heard, but under the 4th amendment he has an obligation to at least attempt before entering.
The Utah Supreme Court agreed.

So, I take back my statement that this is hardly a landmark decision. To the extent that it further expands the ability of Police to conduct No-Knocks on private homes, it's very much another step down the slippery slope. SCOTUS has now ruled that cops have no obligation to knock in response to a domestic argument in progress. That is simply absurd, IMHO.
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Old May 22, 2006, 01:03 PM   #12
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They stopped a potential fight.
Actually, didn't they stop an actual fight in progress? But I see your point about something that may happen vrs. something that is happening.

Quote:
oops, my bad.
A pretty good point, if you ask me. The no-knock was an issue that I had not considered, FirstFreedom. Maybe I ought to actually read the case before I comment on it....
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Old May 22, 2006, 01:17 PM   #13
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Rich,

I'm saying that you get to the scene, evaluate it, and then decide what you're going to do. Then you do it. If you see people engaging in illegal activity, you're going to arrest them. If you go inside & see drugs, etc. in plain view, you're going to seize them. Then you take pictures, statements (if'n they'll talk to you, post Miranda) and you write a nice little report, all of which goes to the prosecutor. The prosecutor decides if the case has merit, files it or don't, and from then on the lawyers & other talking heads take over. All you gotta do after that is take the oath, climb in the hotseat and tell the truth.

Lacking the reports, etc. to look over, I wouldn't presume to judge whether this was a 'bad bust' or not, based on what we see here. Evidently the Supremes thought it was OK, and based on several decades of doing stuff just like this, I'm inclined to agree- based on what I know.

That's all.

*edited for bad typing
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Old May 22, 2006, 01:19 PM   #14
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They upheld a warrantless entry at what benefit to society? Lowering the bar for what constitutes an "emergency".
Admittedly, there's room for abuse, and the gray areas of what constitutes an emergency is an area of concern. The "gray areas" are the problem, but how can you define, in black and white, an "emergency" as applied to an exigent circumstances entry? Certainly a fire applies, or any other obviously life threatening event, but "emergencies" can vary as much as, well... life itself.

Unless someone can draw a legitimate and reasonable line in the sand, it has to remain a judgment call. This is one more reason that agencies need to be careful in the hiring process. Maybe there needs to be more questioning of applicants about their stances on the Bill of Rights.

Quote:
I just don't think any fruits of the entry should have been admissable into the later Court proceedings.
One thing a lot of people aren't aware of is the fact that once the exigent circumstance ceases to exist, the right of officers to remain on the premises also ceases to exist. For example, if we enter to stop domestic violence in progress, and see an eight ball of crack on the table, we're obligated to resolve the DV issue and retreat. Then and only then, we secure the residence and obtain a search warrant based on the observation of the dope.

Remember also that an officer that fails to act on a witnessed crime in progress is guilty of dereliction of duty. Talk about your proverbial "rock and a hard place" .
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Old May 22, 2006, 01:28 PM   #15
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One thing a lot of people aren't aware of is the fact that once the exigent circumstance ceases to exist, the right of officers to remain on the premises also ceases to exist. For example, if we enter to stop domestic violence in progress, and see an eight ball of crack on the table, we're obligated to resolve the DV issue and retreat. Then and only then, we secure the residence and obtain a search warrant based on the observation of the dope.
Plain view find, Cap. If you're there legally, you can seize whatever you find in plain view. You'll need a warrant for the rest of the house of course, but the 8-ball is a 'gimme', provided that you have lawful presence in the first place.
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Old May 22, 2006, 01:35 PM   #16
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Plain view find, Cap. If you're there legally, you can seize whatever you find in plain view.
Right. Bad wording on my part, but ONLY what's in plain view, and only within reasonable proximity to the "event". If the DV, for example, occurs in the kitchen, you can't go upstairs to the bedroom, and spot & seize contraband, without good reason for going up there.
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Old May 22, 2006, 01:42 PM   #17
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Guys-
By supporting this decision, I hope you realize what you're arguing.
Again I quote the Utah SC:
Quote:
What he should have done, as required under the 4th amendment, was knock on the door. The evidence is that there was a loud, tumultuous thing going on, and the evidence is that the occupants probably would not have heard, but under the 4th amendment he has an obligation to at least attempt before entering.
They did not rule that the cops couldn't enter. They ruled that the cops had an affirmative obligation to, at least, knock first and attempt to alert the occupants that there were police at the door.

Have we become so PC that a one punch "fight" is now an issue of life and death, allowing police to rush headlong into a private dwelling without even a knock? Good Lord, which of us hasn't been in such a situation. It ranks right up there with charging 13 year olds with Felony Assault for a playground fight.

Again, all the Court asked was that they make a knock attempt first. SCOTUS ruled is that this is no longer necessary. I don't think you can possibly argue that the original justification for No Knocks was to intercede in minor domestic squabbles. Well, they are now available for such instances.

Surely we can agree that the act of Police entering private homes unannounced has got to bear the closest scrutiny and the largest burden of necessity of all possible government action against its citizens. SCOTUS doesn't appear to think it's a real big deal. That's frightening.
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Old May 22, 2006, 02:11 PM   #18
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I won't argue that they should/could have knocked first, based upon what little I know, in this particular situation. Did it for years- pound the door and yell "POLICE- OPEN UP!" while another cop tried to watch the fracas from a better vantage point. If you get no response and the situation is deteriorating and dictates it, you go through the door.

I also wasn't in their shoes that day, and didn't see what they saw.

A little more detail on the case.... evidently the coppers saw blood drawn, FWIW. From the Clinton News Network...

Court: Cops didn't need warrant to break up fight
Decision gives police discretion to enter without warrant
From Bill Mears
CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday that Utah officers properly entered a private home without a search warrant after witnessing a fight.

The decision gives law enforcement greater discretion to intervene when making snap decisions about threats of violence.

After hearing arguments in the case, several justices seemed openly underwhelmed by the importance of the matter. Justice John Paul Stevens called it "an odd flyspeck of a case."

At issue is whether the "emergency" circumstances that normally allow officers entry into a home without warrants were present in this incident. The court also took a look at the "subjective motivation" that prompted the officers' intervention in the physical struggle they witnessed.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion, less than a month after arguments were held, an unusually quick turnaround for a criminal case.

"The role of a police officer includes preventing violence and restoring order, not simply rendering first aid to casualties," wrote Roberts. "An officer is not like a boxing (or hockey) referee, poised to stop a bout only if it becomes too one-sided."

The facts of the case are typical of the kinds of incidents police respond to all the time: a 3 a.m. complaint about a noisy party.

Four Brigham City officers arrived at a private home on July 23, 2001, but did not find obvious signs of a party. Instead they heard a loud commotion, with "thumping" and shouts of "stop, stop" and "get off of me."

Three of the officers went to the back of the house and found two teenagers drinking beer as the commotion continued inside. Through a window they saw four adults attempting to restrain a teenager against a refrigerator. The boy was trying to wrestle free amid obscenities and cries of "calm down."

Officers saw a punch
As the police came to an open screen door, they saw the teen punch one of the adults in the nose, causing blood. Officers then entered and announced their presence, eventually getting attention of the occupants, who gradually ceased fighting.

Officers claimed they tried to offer aid to the injured adult, but others in the home turned abusive and were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, intoxication, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, all misdemeanors.

The Utah Supreme Court eventually agreed with the defense to exclude evidence, ruling there had been no "immediate serious threat" that justified police entering the home without knocking, or without obtaining a warrant. The charges were dismissed.

But Roberts concluded, "We think the officers' entry here was plainly reasonable under the circumstances. The officers had an objectively reasonable basis for believing both the injured adult might need help and that the violence in the kitchen was just beginning."

The case now goes back to the state courts, with prosecutors free to press charges against the men, using the evidence gathered by police.

A lawyer for the home occupants told the justices that Utah courts all found that it was an unreasonable search. "If they can make their presence known inside the home, they can make their presence known outside the home," said Michael Studebaker.

Lower courts are divided
But Roberts thought otherwise. "The officer's announcement of his presence was at least equivalent to a knock on the door. Indeed, it was probably the only option that had even a chance of rising above the din."

Courts have been deeply divided around the country over when "emergency aid" allows home entries by police without a warrant.

Stevens, 86, said it was "peculiar" how the lower courts ruled, and the fact his fellow justices even agreed to hear it. "It is hard to imagine the outcome was ever in doubt," he noted.

The Bush administration supported the city, and has been a strong advocate of greater law enforcement powers in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The high court itself has taken a keen interest in search-and-seizure cases since those 2001 incidents.

While generally supporting police, the court last month ruled that officers responding to a domestic disturbance were wrong to search a Georgia man's home for drugs, even though his estranged wife had consented. The justices concluded when one legal occupant clearly objects to the search, as the man did, police cannot proceed without a warrant.

Find this article at:
http://www.cnn.com/2006/LAW/05/22/sc...rch/index.html
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Old May 22, 2006, 02:22 PM   #19
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As the police came to an open screen door, they saw the teen punch one of the adults in the nose, causing blood.
My, it WAS serious, wasn't it?

Lordy, if ever I witnessed a kid punch an adult in the nose, "causing blood", I'd surely faint straight away. Thank Goodness our Courts have the common sense to sidestep God Given rights in their quest to save us all from such dastardly deeds. No time to knock there...someone had actually been punched in the nose, for Heaven's sake!


I've had greater "violence" done to me and gave back as much in Martial Arts classes. I imagine that's no longer allowed though. I took and gave far worse from my brother when we were teens.

Like I said:
One more step down the slippery slope. Bad reversal. Bad Ruling.
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Old May 22, 2006, 02:43 PM   #20
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+1 On EVERYTHING that RICH just said.

If my home is my "castle" Why the hell dont I just leave my drawbridge down then?
The point to where the police should have entered is questionable .
I still think it is a bad decision,WAIT... FLUSH ,whats that? O more of our tax dollars going down the toilet:barf: ......Bad decisions because of one situation everyone has to deal with this now.
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Old May 22, 2006, 02:43 PM   #21
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"The officers saw four adults restraining one juvenile."

The cops were just evening the odds a little.

Now, if it'd been a fair fight maybe they wouldn't have been suspicious and would have let it go, although it was 3 in the morning and there had been a complaint about noise.

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Old May 22, 2006, 04:46 PM   #22
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Have we become so PC that a one punch "fight" is now an issue of life and death, allowing police to rush headlong into a private dwelling without even a knock?
But Rich, that's 20/20 hindsight. We know now what it was, but at the time? What were the indicators the officers had that led to the decision to enter? Most importantly, did those indicators suggest a possible serious escalation without intervention? Perhaps a knife lying on a table close to the "combatants"? If the officers witnessed the fight, did nothing to stop it, and one of the parties was stabbed, what are the reprocussions to the officers?

But, as is so often the case, I digress . The crux of the issue here being no-knock entries, I submit that a total disallowance of no-knocks isn't practical. There are times when knock and announce puts officers at greater risk. That may seem obvious, but once you put "shall announce" on paper, there is no more "should announce". I have no objections to a refinement that keeps our 4th Amendment Rights intact, while laying down clear and reasonable expectations for law enforcement, but decisions made by our courts and lawmakers need to be carefully thought out with all possible future consequences considered. Laws are passed far too often that originally had good intent, but were worded so that an elephant gun is mandated to kill mice, and the resulting collateral damage was never considered.

Quote:
Surely we can agree that the act of Police entering private homes unannounced has got to bear the closest scrutiny and the largest burden of necessity of all possible government action against its citizens.
Absolutely!

But at the same time, give us clear and reasonable guidelines to go by. Don't hand us a huge "gray area", expect us to make a correct, snap judgement on something that's been the subject of decades of judicial bickering, and hold us accountable when we couldn't, in the moments allowed us, interpret the "gray" the same way the courts did.
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Old May 22, 2006, 06:00 PM   #23
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Don't hand us a huge "gray area"
Charlie-
Therein lies the problem. As an LEO, you want clear lines of authority. The more the Courts and Legislatures try to provide that, the less ground we have protected by the Bill of Rights.

- Probable Cause becomes Reasonable Suspicion
- The Fourth becomes constricted by Terry
- The Fourth becomes further constricted by Hiibel
- Now the Fourth becomes even more constricted by Stuart

Again, we are not arguing whether the officers should have entered the home. We are debating whether they had an obligation to at least knock first

This issue of us "not having been there" and "not having seen what the officers saw" is a Red Herring of the first order. While it should (and does) protect those officers from liability in a civil action, that should not be equated with complete abrogation of the homeowners rights to suppress. That's all the defendants asked for; that's what they received from the Trial Court, the Appellate Court and the Utah Supreme Court. It's what they were stripped of by SCOTUS.

I've already provided a link to the Utah SC decision in this. They clearly address the issue of potential injury and the need for immediate action:
Quote:
Among the categories of possible exigent circumstances, only one is relevant here: whether the altercation within the dwelling and the blow struck by the juvenile could give rise to the officers' reasonable belief that their immediate entry was necessary to prevent physical harm to the occupants of the house. With this refinement of our inquiry, we confront the nub of the matter: how grave must the impending harm be to create an exigent circumstance? According to Brigham City, the answer to this question is "not very."
Three Courts found this entry did not require such immediate action as to render a "Knock" too long a delay; in fact, the officers hardly rushed to the aid of the guy with the nose bleed. They entered the home quite carefully. SCOTUS claims the incident constituted a "brawl". While that is hardly the nub of the issue, nobody needs a crystal ball to understand that today's decision in Stuart opens the door to tomorrow's decisions regarding:
- No-Knock entry for audible domestic disturbance
- No-Knock entry where loud music is playing (this was one of the State's arguments for not knocking.)
- No-Knock entry where a child is heard crying
- No-Knock entry where a dog fight is in progress

Doncha get it? I'm not arguing that LEO's shouldn't be allowed to investigate these things; I'm only stating that, under circumstances this relatively commonplace and benign, the requirement should be to (at the very least) Knock First before you invade my home. There is no greater invasion of the Fourth than entering a private home. The defendants were outraged by the action? I'd have been positively ballistic.

As to that "Gray Area" you live in, Charlie- That is, unfortunately, as it should be. Because, when you demand that your job be colored in Black and White, the rest of us become subject to the gray vagaries of decisions like Stuart....we no longer know what rights we have. In a "Free" society, that is simply unacceptable. In your own home, it is unconscionable.

Just how low do we wish to lower the bar of Search and Seizure Rights in order to protect Americans from a run-of-the-mill, common, everyday, domestic, one-punch "fist fight"?
Rich
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Old May 22, 2006, 10:19 PM   #24
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I thought the legal principle of "exigent circumstances" was a well-established standard of reasonableness. Isn't that what they claimed when they went in to OJ's curtilege?
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Old May 22, 2006, 10:25 PM   #25
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Don't peek in my windows.

Bring a warrant, always.

Then there's no fear you'll get shot, SCOTUS decision be damned.

This was yet another (agenda-driven) screw-up on our way to hell.
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