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The Supreme Court on Thursday weakened the longstanding “knock and announce” rule under which police must in most circumstances knock on the door, announce their presence, and wait briefly before forcibly entering a house with a search warrant. Although not repealing the rule itself, Justice Antonin Scalia’s 5-4 majority opinion said the traditional remedy for police violation of the rule-namely, barring the use at trial of the evidence found-is no longer required. Citing the increasing professionalism of today’s police and the availability of other remedies, such as civil rights suits under Section 1983 of Title 42 of the U.S. Code, Scalia said the “massive remedy” of exclusion of evidence was unwarranted and would invite a flood of allegations of police violation of the rule. “The cost of entering this lottery,” Scalia wrote, “would be small, but the jackpot enormous: suppression of all evidence, amounting in many cases to a get-out-of-jail-free card.” Scalia’s ruling was confined to the context of the knock-and-announce rule, but some elements of it could apply more broadly, possibly setting the stage for a future attack on the exclusionary rule, which excludes from use at trial any evidence that is illegally obtained by police. That rule, first established by the Supreme Court for federal courts in 1914 and applied to states in 1961, has been a hardy but controversial tool for discouraging police misconduct. Law enforcement advocates applauded the ruling. “Today’s decision not to expand the exclusionary rule is very important to law enforcement,” said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation. “Justice is best served when juries are allowed to consider all relevant evidence.” The ruling in Hudson v. Michigan, one of four handed down Thursday, was one sign that the much-heralded era of unanimity under new Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. may have been short-lived. And it also highlighted the impact of the Court’s new lineup. When the Court first heard arguments in the Hudson case in January, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was still on the Court and appeared sympathetic to defendant Booker Hudson Jr. The case was reheard in May after Justice Samuel Alito Jr. replaced O’Connor, and on Thursday he joined the Scalia majority against Hudson. Also in the majority were Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer said the ruling “weakens, perhaps destroys, much of the practical value of the Constitution’s knock-and-announce protection.” Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined the dissent. The decision also drew criticism from groups that have pointed to a sharp increase in recent years in no-knock, SWAT-type police raids on private homes, usually in pursuit of drugs. “Because of today’s decision, we can expect to see an even more pronounced increase in the use of illegal, military-style no-knock raids,” said Radley Balko of the Cato Institute, which filed a brief in the Hudson case. “We can expect to see more innocent civilians wrongly targeted.” Balko also discounted Scalia’s reference to the alternative remedy of suing police officers under Section 1983, asserting that the courts had already “set the bar extremely high” against such suits. In the case before the Court, lawyers for Detroit police acknowledged that they violated the traditional knock-and-announce rule when they entered Hudson’s home in a drug bust. They shouted “Police, search warrant,” but did not knock and waited less than five seconds before opening the unlocked door. A state court judge suppressed the cocaine evidence that was obtained in the raid, but the Michigan Court of Appeals said the evidence should have been allowed because it would have been discovered even if the police had obeyed the rule. Scalia said the “ancient” knock-and- announce rule protected valid interests that benefit police and homeowners. Police benefit because if they force their way into homes without announcement, those inside might shoot them as intruders. It also “protects those elements of privacy and dignity that can be destroyed by a sudden entrance,” Scalia said, by allowing inhabitants to pull on clothes or get out of bed. But the Court has already allowed police to ignore the rule if the circumstances “present a threat of physical violence” or if there is reason to believe that waiting would lead to the destruction of evidence inside. The Court also ruled Thursday in Howard Delivery Service v. Zurich American Insurance Co. that insurance company claims for unpaid workers’-compensation premiums are not entitled to priority in bankruptcy proceedings. And in Kircher v. Putnam Funds Trust, the Court ruled that federal appeals courts have no jurisdiction to second-guess lower court decisions to remand to state court lawsuits filed under the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998. The ruling is a defeat for investment companies that seek to keep investor class actions out of state courts. Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected]

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