The Supreme Court on Thursday decided that police can bust into your home without knocking, so long as they have a search warrant.
The vote was 5-4. The case had been argued when Sandra Day O'Connor was still on the bench, and she appeared sympathetic to the defendant's position. Once O'Connor retired, President Bush appointed Samuel Alito to take her place.
Alito was the fifth vote in Thursday's ruling.
The Associated Press reports:
Dissenting justices predicted that police will now feel free to ignore previous court rulings that officers with search warrants must knock and announce themselves or run afoul of the Constitution's Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches.
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said Detroit police acknowledge violating that rule when they called out their presence at a man's door, failed to knock, then went inside three seconds to five seconds later. The court has endorsed longer waits, of 15 seconds to 20 seconds.
"Whether that preliminary misstep had occurred or not, the police would have executed the warrant they had obtained, and would have discovered the gun and drugs inside the house," Scalia wrote.
Suppressing evidence is too high of a penalty, Scalia said, for errors by police in failing to properly announce themselves.
The outcome might have been different if O'Connor were still on the bench. She seemed ready, when the case was first argued in January, to rule in favor of Booker Hudson, whose house was searched in 1998.
O'Connor had worried aloud that officers around the country might start bursting into homes to execute search warrants. She asked: "Is there no policy of protecting the home owner a little bit and the sanctity of the home from this immediate entry?" ...
In a dissent, four justices complained that the decision erases more than 90 years of Supreme Court precedent.
"It weakens, perhaps destroys, much of the practical value of the Constitution's knock-and-announce protection," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for himself and the three other liberal members.
Breyer said that police can now enter homes without knocking and waiting a short time if they know that there is no punishment for it.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a moderate, joined the conservatives in most of the ruling. He wrote his own opinion, however, to say "it bears repeating that it is a serious matter if law enforcement officers violate the sanctity of the home by ignoring the requisites of lawful entry."