Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More New Jersey Court Shenanigans

Is New Jersey trying to become the California of the east? After judicial decisions like these, one has to wonder.

NEWARK, N.J. - A state appeals court yesterday threw out a Camden County man's drug conviction because police did not wait long enough after knocking before forcing their way into his apartment for a search.

The Camden County Prosecutor's Office had a knock-and-announce warrant when it went to the apartment of James Robinson in Hi-Nella in 2004. But by waiting only 20 to 30 seconds, the court ruled, police turned it into a no-knock warrant, which is issued only when officers certify that a suspect may be dangerous.

Officers found cocaine, and Robinson was sentenced to a 15-year prison term for drug possession. The ruling excludes that evidence. (H/T - The Philadelphia Inquirer)

The officers waited approximately 20 to 30 seconds after knocking and announcing they had a warrant. Count that off in your head. Do you think that's enough time? If not, what amount of time would be appropriate? While you're mulling that over, consider this:

During knock-and-announce, the knock and the identification - usually something like, "Police! We have a warrant!" - must be loud enough for the occupants to hear. Once the announcement is made, the toads inside have 20 to 30 seconds to do one of two things:
  1. Destroy any evidence inside.
  2. Arm themselves to shoot at the officers.
Did you count off that 20 to 30 seconds yet? That's a lot of time. Now, the New Jersey appeals court is stating that officers should wait even longer after knock-and-announce, or their cases will be thrown out. Of course, they did not seem fit to suggest a "reasonable" amount of time to wait before entering, instead, leaving the amount of time arbitrary. Go figure.

One has to wonder what the state appeals court will think if an officer is killed while waiting a full minute after knock-and-announce?

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