Richards v. Wisconsin Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Police, suspecting a felony drug violation, executed a search warrant at petitioner Richards’ hotel room while failing to “knock and announce.”

Facts of the case

“Police in Madison, Wisconsin, suspected Steiney Richards of drug possession, but failed to receive a magistrate’s authorization for a “”no-knock”” entry into his hotel room. Instead, they obtained a conventional search warrant requiring them to knock on Richards’ door and identify themselves as officers prior to resorting to forcible entry. After arriving on the scene, an officer knocked on Richards’ door identifying himself as a hotel custodian. When Richards opened the door, he saw a uniformed officer and quickly slammed it shut. The officers broke through the door, grabbed Richards while trying to escape, and found cocaine and cash in his bathroom. At trial, Richards challenged the constitutionality of the officer’s search but was denied. On appeal, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court affirmed and the Supreme Court granted certiorari.”

Question

Is knocking and announcing your presence ever required under the Fourth Amendment for police officers executing a search warrant in a felony drug investigation?

Answer

Yes, in some situations. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in this case because it was not required under these circumstances.
The blanket exception to the knock and announce rule for felony drug investigations was unconstitutional. The exception could just as easily be applied to other situations like armed bank robbers who could just as easily destroy the evidence of their crimes.

Conclusion

“The Supreme Court of the United States court affirmed the lower courts’ judgment because the officers’ decision not to knock-and-announce was reasonable under the circumstances of the case. In order to justify a “”no-knock”” entry, the police must have a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing their presence, under the particular circumstances, would be dangerous or futile, or that it would inhibit the effective investigation of the crime by, for example, allowing the destruction of evidence. However, the Court ruled that the state supreme court’s blanket exception to the knock-and-announce requirement—that police officers were never required to knock and announce their presence when executing a search warrant in a felony drug investigation—was unconstitutional.”

  • Case Brief: 1997
  • Petitioner: Richards
  • Respondent: Wisconsin
  • Decided by: Rehnquist Court

Citation: 520 US 385 (1997)
Argued: Mar 24, 1997
Decided: Apr 28, 1997