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Incriminating Evidence and Statements From Defendant May Be Suppressed After Improper Arrest in Florida

In a recent trafficking in methamphetamine and marijuana case, the police went to the house of the suspect with a warrant for his arrest. The police officers knocked on the door without announcing who they were and why they were there. The police officers then opened the door and found the suspect inside. They also found marijuana in the home that was the basis for the trafficking in marijuana charge. After his arrest, the suspect made some statements that the State intended to use against him in court.

Later in the case, the criminal defense lawyer moved to have the evidence of the marijuana and the defendant’s statements thrown out based on an illegal arrest. In Florida, we have a law that says the police must knock and announce themselves and their purpose before entering a person’s home to execute an arrest warrant. This is a compromise between a person’s a 4th Amendment privacy interest in his/her home and the State’s right to serve valid arrest warrants at a person’s home. In addition to knocking and announcing who they are and why they are there, the police must give a person a chance to open the door and let the police inside before coming in on their own.

In this case, the police violated the knock and announce statute by failing to make the proper announcements and waiting to see if someone would answer the door. The question then is: what is the proper remedy for the defendant after such a violation? The proper remedy is not that the charges that were the basis of the arrest get dropped. However, there is support in the law in Florida that if the police obtain any evidence as a result of the improper arrest, that evidence will get thrown out and may not be used against the defendant in court. Therefore, if the police violate the knock and announce statute, any evidence they find in the house after the illegal entry and any statements they get after entering the house may be thrown out of court.