Friday, June 17, 2011

No-Knock Warrants Are Overused

I have repeatedly pointed out that while there is a case for no-knock warrants, the circumstances that justify them are pretty darn rare--and stuff like this is why they should be extremely rare.  From the June 16, 2011 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
Led by FBI Special Agent Karen Springmeyer, about a dozen officers used a battering ram to enter Adams' rented Orchard Street home in a search for Sondra Hunter, then 35. But Hunter hadn't lived at that address for almost two years, while Adams and his family had been living there for more than a year, according to the lawsuit filed by Adams and 10 other family members.
The lawsuit says that officers knew, or should have known, that Hunter no longer lived there. By executing an arrest warrant at a residence that wasn't Hunter's, they violated the family's Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure, and their Fifth Amendment right to due process, the lawsuit says.
...Denise Adams, 58, said seeing the red dots from the officers' targeting lasers crawl across her children's faces also has cost her faith in law enforcement.
"I don't want to, but this was terrifying," she sobbed.

Read more: Bellevue family sues FBI over 'terrifying' raid - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Now, if this was a national security matter, with concern that the people inside might set off a bomb, or there was reason to fear that serving the warrant in a civilized manner might get someone killed, fine.  But this is a heroin distribution charge, and even if there was reason for a no-knock warrant based on the dangerousness of the person being arrested, you need to be extra careful to make sure that you are at the right address, and that the person you are trying to arrest still lives there.  

As bad as this was, it could have ended far worse.  If someone suddenly without announcing who they were tried to bust down my door, there would be a magazine full of 5.56mm headed downrange.  Police have extraordinary authority in our society, and they need to operate with extraordinary responsibility for that reason.

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