United States v. Ramirez

Facts of the Case

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.

Question

Does the Fourth Amendment require that police officers have more than a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing their presence before entering would be dangerous, futile, or inhibit the effective investigation of a crime when a no-knock entry results in the destruction of property?

CONCLUSION

No. In an unanimous opinion delivered by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the Court held that the Fourth Amendment does not hold police officers to a higher standard than the test articulated in Richards v. Wisconsin. In Richards, the Court held that a no-knock entry was justified if police had a reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing would be dangerous, futile, or would inhibit the effective investigation of the crime, when a no-knock entry resulted in the destruction of property. Excessive or unnecessary destruction of property in the course of a search may violate the Fourth Amendment, even though the entry itself is lawful and the fruits of the search not subject to suppression, noted the Chief Justice.

Case Information

  • Citation: 523 US 65 (1998)
  • Argued: Jan 13, 1998
  • Decided Mar 4, 1998