United States v. Ramirez

523 U.S. 65, 118 S. Ct. 992 (1998)



A “no-knock” entry is justified if police have a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing would be dangerous, futile, or destructive to the purposes of the investigation. Whether such a reasonable suspicion exists depends in no way on whether police must destroy property in order to enter.


Law enforcement officials obtained information that the fugitive inmate was hiding at respondent's home. They obtained a "no knock" search warrant of the residence. In executing the warrant, officers announced their presence via a loud speaker system. Simultaneously, they broke a garage window and pointed a gun inside, in an effort to prevent respondent or the inmate from obtaining weapons believed to be in the garage. The inmate was not found but respondent's weapon was, and he was indicted for possession of a weapon by a felon. The district court, granting respondent's motion to suppress evidence regarding his possession of the firearms, expressed the view that the police officers had violated the Federal Constitution's Fourth Amendment and 18 U.S.C.S. § 3109. The appellate court agreed, and the government petitioned for certiorari. The Supreme Court of the United States granted the petition and reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings.


Did the officers, in causing damage to respondent’s property after enforcing a no knock warrant, violate the Fourth Amendment or 18 U.S.C.S. § 3109?




The determination of whether a reasonable suspicion existed was not contingent upon whether the entry would cause the destruction of property. The Fourth Amendment did not hold police officers to a higher standard than that. The same standard was the measure to determine the applicability of the knock-and-announce requirement's exigent circumstances exception codified in 18 U.S.C.S. § 3109. The provisions of 18 U.S.C.S. § 3109 prohibited nothing. It merely authorized officers to damage property in certain instances. Even accepting arguendo that the statute implicitly forbade some of what it did not expressly permit, it was of no help to respondent. Thus, the officers in the instant case did not violate the Fourth Amendment or 18 U.S.C.S. § 3109.

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