In Florida, there is such a thing called a knock and announce search warrant. If the police have sufficient evidence to believe there are drugs or other evidence of criminal activity in a residence, the police can obtain a search warrant that allows them to search the premises. That does not necessarily give the police the right to barge into the home and start searching. It can be a serious safety risk both to the occupants and the police if they just barge into the home unannounced.
A knock and announce warrant requires the police to knock on the door, announce they are police and give the occupant the opportunity to let the police inside. However, if no one lets the police in, the police can then break open a door or window to gain entry.
One question that comes up is whether the police complied with the requirements of the knock and announce search warrant. Often, it is question of whether the police gave the occupants sufficient time to open the door before busting through the door. On the one hand, there is the safety issue with the police coming into one’s home unannounced. On the other hand, if the police announce themselves and wait too long, the occupants could dispose of drugs or other evidence that are in the residence.
In a recent trafficking in marijuana case near Jacksonville, Florida, the police obtained a knock and announce warrant for the defendant’s home. According to the police, they knocked, announced themselves and waited about ten seconds. When no one answered, they knocked and announced themselves again. At this point, no one answered, and the police rammed the door, went inside and found a large quantity of marijuana inside. The criminal defense lawyer filed a motion to suppress the evidence of the marijuana alleging that the police did not comply with the terms of the knock and announce search warrant by barging into the house too quickly. If police do not follow the terms of a search warrant, the criminal defense attorney can file a motion to suppress and potentially get all of the evidence found as a result of the search thrown out.
In this case, the police officers testified that they waited about twenty seconds in between the initial knock and busting through the door. The court found that this was a reasonable period of time to give the defendant an opportunity to answer the door.
The law does not establish a certain period of time that is acceptable for the police to wait before ramming the door. Each case is evaluated based on its own circumstances. It seems pretty clear that five seconds or less is probably not enough time. There are cases out there in which fifteen or more seconds have found to be enough time. But again, it really does depend on the specific circumstances like the time of day, the size of the residence, whether the police can see or hear any activity in the home and other factors. For instance, the police would need to give more time if they show up to a large house at 3:00 a.m. as opposed to a small house at 6:00 pm. Likewise, if the police knock and announce and then can hear people inside scrambling around, a judge may be more willing to allow the search than if the house is quiet.