Category Archives: Knock & Talk

“Knock & Announce” Was Too Short.

Image result for cops break down door

In State v. Ortiz, the WA Court of Appeals Division III held that police violated a defendant’s rights when they forced entry into his home after waiting only 6-9 seconds of their “knock and announce” during the early morning.

In late July 2011, Wapato Police Sergeant Robert Hubbard viewed the backyard of the defendant’s property from the vantage point of a cooperative neighbor. He saw two marijuana plants. Sergeant Hubbard was granted a search warrant for the property.

on August 11, 2011, at approximately 6:4 7 a.m., Sergeant Hubbard and 11 other police officers executed the search warrant at the property. He knocked on the door three times, announced “police search warrant,” waited one to two seconds, and repeated that process twice more. Hearing nothing inside the home, the officers breached the front door and entered the home.

Upon searching the property, the officers found 41 marijuana plants in various stages of growth and other evidence of a grow operation. Mr. Ortiz was eventually charged with one count of manufacture of a controlled substance, one count of involving a minor in an unlawful controlled substance transaction, and several other counts not relevant on appeal.

At the end of trial, the jury found Mr. Ortiz guilty.

On appeal, Mr. Ortiz argued he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his defense attorney failed to challenge the execution of the search warrant for failure to comply with the knock and announce rule.

EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL.

The Court of Appeals began by explaining that effective assistance of counsel is guaranteed by both the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 22 of the Washington Constitution. First, the defendant must show he received deficient representation. Second, the defendant must show he suffered prejudice as a result of the deficient performance.

“KNOCK & ANNOUNCE” RULE.

Next, the court explained the “knock and announce” rule. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires that a non-consensual entry by the police be preceded by an announcement of identity and purpose on the part of the officers. This is part of the constitutional requirement that search warrants be reasonably executed.

In WA State, the parallel requirement of article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution is codified in RCW 10.31.040. It states, “To make an arrest in criminal actions, the officer may break open any outer or inner door, or windows of a dwelling house or other building, or any other enclosure, if, after notice of his or her office and purpose, he or she be refused admittance.”

The Court explained that in order to comply with the “Knock & Announce” statute, the police must, prior to a non-consensual entry, announce their identity, demand admittance, announce the purpose of their demand, and be explicitly or implicitly denied admittance. The requirement of a demand for admittance and an explicit or implicit denial of admittance have been merged into a ‘waiting period,’ often linked to whether the police officers are refused admittance. Strict compliance with the rule is required unless the State can demonstrate that one of the two exceptions to the rule applies: exigent circumstances or futility of compliance. Finally, the proper remedy for an unexcused violation is suppression of the evidence obtained by the violation.

Here, the only disputed issue was whether the police waited long enough before they broke down the door. The answer to this question depends upon the circumstances of the case.

The Court elaborated that the reasonableness of the waiting period is evaluated in light of the purposes of the rule, which are: ( 1) reduction of potential violence to both occupants and police arising from an unannounced entry, (2) prevention of unnecessary property damage, and (3) protection of an occupant’s right to privacy.

Here, the Court believed the waiting period of 6-9 seconds was unreasonable:

“In this case, due to the early hour of the search, the occupants were foreseeably asleep. Six to nine seconds was not a reasonable amount of time for them to respond to the police, and thus no denial of admittance can be inferred. Even Sergeant Hubbard admitted it would not be a surprise that sleeping occupants would be unable to respond in that amount of time. In addition, the purposes of the rule were not fulfilled due to the property damage done by battering in the door. The police did not comply with the rule.”

Although the State presented cases where the “knock and announce” rule was adhered to after police officers breached entry quickly after announcing, the Court nevertheless reasoned that in each of those cases the defendants were both present and awake. But here, the officers did not have any indication the home’s occupants were present or awake.

Because the police violated the knock and announce rule, and there is no legitimate strategic or tactical reason for failing to challenge the search, counsel was deficient for not moving to suppress the evidence. This deficiency, reasoned the court, prejudiced the defendant.

The Court concluded that Mr. Ortiz established that he was deprived of his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel. The court reversed his convictions and remanded the case back to the trial court with directions to suppress the fruits of the illegal search.

My opinion? Excellent decision. Search and seizure issues like this are incredibly interesting. For more information on the case law surrounding these issues please review my Legal Guide titled, Search & Seizure: Basic Issues Regarding Their Search for Weapons, Drugs, Firearms and Other Contraband.

State v. Budd: WA Supreme Court Acknowledges Unlawful Search of Home.

In State v. Budd, the WA Supreme Court decided law enforcement officers must properly give Ferrier warnings before entering a residence.

Good decision. Last year, I discussed how the WA Court of Appeals decided this matter in my blog titled, State v. Budd: Ferrier Warnings Improperly Given. Fortunately, the WA Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals’ decision.

Police arrived at his door on a “cybertip” that Mr. Budd was talking to underage girls through online chatting and that he possessed child pornography on his computer. Officers arrived at Budd’s home and performed a “knock & talk“, however, they lacked probable cause for a search warrant.  Also,  the detectives did not properly discuss Ferrier warnings with Mr. Holmes before he allowed them entry. They seized his computer, found child porn and charged him with Possession of Depictions of Minors Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct under RCW 9.68A.070. He was convicted.

Some background on Ferrier warnings is necessary in order to understand this “search & seizure of a home” case. In State v. Ferrier, the WA Supreme Court held that, before entering a citizen’s home without a warrant, a law enforcement officer must (1) ask the citizen for consent, (2) inform the citizen that he can revoke consent at any time and (3) notify the citizen that he can limit the scope of the entry into the home. If an officer fails to provide these Ferrier rights/warnings, then any evidence obtained from the search is “fruits of the poisonous search” and can be suppressed.

On appeal, Budd argued that the trial court wrongfully denied his motion to suppress evidence because the Ferrier warnings given by police were insufficient. The Court of Appeals agreed with Mr. Budd and suppressed the evidence. In response, the State took the issue up on appeal to the WA Supreme Court. In this new opinion, however, the WA Supremes ultimately decided the Court of Appeals correctly ruled that Budd’s consent was invalid.

The WA Supreme Court reasoned that since Ferrier, the Court has consistently limited the Ferrier warnings to knock and talk procedures. “In this case, the officers conducted a knock and talk because they sought Budd’s consent to enter his home to search for and seize suspected contraband. Therefore, the officers were required to give Budd the Ferrier warnings before entering his home.”

Furthermore, the Court discussed the similarities between Mr. Budd’s case at hand and the defendant in Ferrier:

“Indeed, the officers’ conduct in this case paralleled the conduct of the officers in Ferrier. In both cases, the officers arrived without announcement, surprising the resident. In both cases, the resident was not given time to reflect on the officers’ presence before being asked to give his or her consent for the officers to enter the home and search for evidence of a crime. In both cases, the resident reacted to the knock and talk procedure as expected by being polite and cooperative, and allowing the officers inside the residence.”

Finally, the WA Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s finding that the officers did not give Budd the Ferrier warnings before entering his home and hold that Budd’s consent was therefore involuntary. And with that ,the WA Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and dismissed the charges against Mr. Budd.

Again, good decision. Although Mr. Budd’s actions leading up to his charges were certainly concerning, the WA Supremes got it right in deciding that our individual rights trump unlawful government searches of our homes. I’m glad they didn’t decide differently and chip away at the Ferrier decision. In Ferrier, the WA Supreme Court specifically highlighted the fact that when confronted with a surprise show of government force and authority, most residents believe they have no choice but to consent to the search. This is absolutely true. The Ferrier court also noted that it was not surprised by an officer’s testimony that virtually everyone confronted by a knock and talk accedes to the request to permit a search of their home.

Bellingham Police Get Software to Map Crime Patterns

This screen-grab is a sample interactive map that shows criminal activity in the downtown Seattle area. Bellingham is buying similar Predictive Policing Software.

According to the Bellingham Herald, the Bellingham Police Department plans to buy “Predictive Policing Software” that will map crime patterns in the city and help officers decide where to patrol.

For those who don’t know, “Predictive Policing Software” is computer technology which uses advanced mathematics and algorithms to predict the times, locations and “types” of many crimes in any given jurisdiction. Police agencies can use this software to predict property crimes, drug incidents, gang activity, and gun violence, as well as traffic accidents.

The software, by Bair Analytics, will help compile reports currently put together by the department’s current crime analyst, who plans to retire soon.

According to the Bellingham Herald, officers currently use similarly compiled crime information to help detect criminal patterns and choose where they should focus their efforts. For example, if a series of home break-ins has been reported in a specific neighborhood, and officers see that similar methods were used to get into the homes, they start looking at what days and times those crimes happened to try to prevent another or catch the criminal in the act.

“A few years back we had a long series of rooftop burglaries and it took a while to catch the guys that were doing it,” Vander Yacht said. “We had to figure out the best times and places for them to do that.”

 

The software also allows interested citizens to sign up for alerts and view an interactive map of criminal activity in their area. The information included on the map is somewhat limited to protect the privacy of victims.

The map, which can be found at raidsonline.com, currently shows information for 15 Washington cities, including Seattle, Richland and Pasco. RAIDS stands for Regional Analysis and Information Data Sharing.

My opinion? Interesting technology. I don’t see if it violates people’s Constitutional Rights or infringes on their privacy. There shouldn’t be any problem with the implementation of this technology as long as the information does not target a particular individual.

Still, one gets a sense that Big Brother is getting better at watching us . . .

Bellingham is buying predictive policing software that will map crime patterns in the city and help officers decide where to patrol. The software, by Blair Analytics, will essentially replace the Bellingham Police Department’s current crime analyst.

State v. Budd: Ferrier Warnings Improperly Given

Good decision. In State v. Budd, the WA Court of Appeals decided a law enforcement officer must properly deliver all three parts of the Ferrier warnings before entering a residence.

Some background on Ferrier warnings is necessary. In State v. Ferrier, 136 Wn.2d 103, 960 P.2d 927 (1998) the WA Supreme Court held that, before entering a citizen’s home without a warrant, a law enforcement officer must (1) ask the citizen for consent, (2) inform the citizen that he can revoke consent at any time and (3) notify the citizen that he can limit the scope of the entry into the home. If an officer fails to provide these Ferrier rights/warnings, then any evidence obtained from the search is “fruits of the poisonous search” and also subject to being suppressed.

Appellant Michael Allen Budd was convicted of Possession of Depictions of Minors Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct under RCW 9.68A.070. He contends that the trial court erred in its denial of his ER 3.6 motion to suppress evidence obtained in a warrantless search of his residence by the officers investigating the case. He argued the Ferrier warnings were insufficient.

Washington State Patrol’s Missing and Exploited Children Task Force  received an anonymous “cybertip” from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The anonymous source declared that Michael Allen Budd communicated with young girls on Yahoo! Messenger and Windows Live Messenger, both free online chat services. The anonymous source stated that he or she had seen child pornography on Budd’s computer.

On March 11,2009, Detective Kim Holmes travelled to Ephrata to Mr. Budd’s home. In law enforcement, a “knock and talk” is an investigative technique where one or more police officers approaches a private residence, knocks on the door, and requests consent from the owner to search the residence. Law enforcement performs the “knock and talk” when criminal activity is suspected, but officers lack probable cause to obtain a search warrant.

Detective Kim and other officers made contact with Holmes at his home. Although many of the facts are in dispute, it appeared that Detective Kim did not properly discuss Ferrier warnings with Mr. Holmes.

The court reasoned that Detective Holmes’ police report lacked any mention of Holmes’ informing Budd that he had a right to decline consent to enter the home, limit the scope of the search, and revoke consent at any time. Finally, the report implied that Holmes misrepresented that a court would authorize a search warrant. Based on this, the Court of Appeals ruled that the detective did not voice all Ferrier warnings before entering the home, and that law enforcement officers MUST deliver all cautions before entering the residence. Consequently, the Court reversed the conviction and dismissed the case.

My opinion? I agree with this excerpt from the Court of Appeals:

Viewing child pornography is a hideous crime that robs children of innocence and scars them for life. Those who watch child pornography obsessively gamer gratification through violent acts on defenseless children. Catching one at the crime takes diligence since the viewer indulges in the privacy of his home, often by elaborate security measures on his computer. Thus, we reluctantly reverse the trial court.

Nevertheless, as judges, we pledged to uphold the constitution and the endearing rights protected by the constitution. Those engaged in hideous conduct are entitled to the protections afforded under our state and federal constitution including the right to be free of unlawful searches and seizures.

Well said.

State v. Witherrite: Ferrier Warnings Do Not Apply to Car Searches

Interesting. In State v. Witherrite, the Court of Appeals decided that law enforcement officers need not give Ferrier warnings for car searches because an automobile should not be treated in the same manner as a home.

A deputy sheriff stopped Ms. Witherrite for a traffic violation and had her perform field sobriety tests. The deputy then received permission to search Ms. Witherrite’s car after advising her that at any time she could stop or limit the scope ofthe search. The deputy did not tell her that she had the right to refuse consent.

The vehicle search turned up marijuana, methamphetamine, and drug paraphernalia. The prosecutor ultimately charged the associated crimes for each of those items. She moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that her consent was invalid due to the absence of the warnings required by State v. Ferrier, 136 Wn.2d 103,960 P.2d 927 (1998). The trial court disagreed, concluding that Ferrier did not extend to vehicles and that Ms. Witherrite had consented to the search. The court found her guilty as charged. Ms. Witherrite timely appealed.

The issuel presented on appeal was whether the Court would extend Ferrier warnings to vehicle searches.

Some background on Ferrier is necessary. In Ferrier, the Washington Supreme Court faced a situation where officers wanted to get inside a house to see if they could smell growing marijuana which they suspected was present on the basis of an unsupported tip. The officers did not tell the occupant that she had the ability to refuse consent. After being invited into the home, the officers asked for consent to search the residence. A detective explained that this “knock and talk” procedure was used in order to avoid seeking a search warrant. The defendant consented to the search and was convicted of the charges.

The Washington Supreme Court reversed the conviction, ruling that because the woman had a heightened right of privacy in her home. Under article I, section 7 of the WA Constitution, officers could not enter a home to seek voluntary consent to search the dwelling without first informing her that she did not need to consent to the entry. The court’s analysis repeatedly emphasized the heightened protection given the home under our constitution. The court then adopted the following rule:

When police officers conduct a knock and talk for the purpose of obtaining consent to search a home, and thereby avoid the necessity of obtaining a warrant, they must, prior to entering the home, inform the person from whom consent is sought that he or she may lawfully refuse to consent to the search and that they can revoke, at any time, the consent that they give, and can limit the scope of the consent to certain areas of the home.

Despite the above rule, the WA Court of Appeals in this case decided Ferrier warnings are NOT applicable outside of the home because the Washington Supreme Court has long distinguished houses from vehicles in the search and seizure context.

One particularly instructive case the court examined was State v. Vrieling, 144 Wn.2d 489,28 P.3d 762 (2000). There, a deputy sheriff stopped a motor home and arrested the driver, Ms. Vrieling. A search of the motor home was conducted incident to the arrest. The question before the court was whether the then-existing vehicle search doctrine applied to the search of the motor home, which is essentially a house-like vehicle. The court ultimately concluded that when a motor home is used as a vehicle, the vehicle search doctrine applied and apparently, Ferrier warnings do not.

The treatment of the home as most deserving of heightened protection under the WA constitution led the court to conclude that Ferrier warnings need not be given prior to obtaining consent to search a vehicle.

My opinion? Sad as it seems, this opinion makes sense. There certainly are differences between a car and a home. Simply put, homes have more privacy protections than cars.

State v. Westvang: Ferrier Warnings, Arrest Warrants & Questionable Searches of a Home.

Division II of the Court of Appeals just decided that Ferrier Warnings (discussed below) are NOT necessary when police officers obtain consent to enter a home in order to execute an arrest warrant on a fugitive.

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/D2%2042777-0-II%20%20Published%20Opinion%20After%20Remand.pdf

Police were searching for a fugitive named Scott Miller, who had a warrant for his arrest. Officers received a tip that Miller was at Ms. Westvang’s home. They arrived at her home. The  officers informed Ms. Westvang that they were looking for Miller. She said he was not there. Officer Sawyer asked permission to search her home and look for Miller. Although Officer Sawyer did not give full Ferrier Warnings, he informed Westvang that she did not have to consent to the search.

Westvang consented to the search and led officers through her living room, kitchen and bedroom. They did not find Miller. However, after returning to the living room, the officers saw a desk upon which were substances recongnized as meth and marijuana, as well as small plastic baggies; a digital scale with a white crystalline substance, and $105 in U.S. currency. Ms. Westvang was arrested for Possession of a Controlled Substance With Intent To Deliver. Although Westvang’s attorney argued a pretrial motion to suppress the evidence because the officers failed to provide Ferrier warnings, the judge denied her motion. At trial, Westvang was convicted. She appealed.

Some background is necessary. In State v. Ferrier, the WA Supreme Court announced a rule to protect occupants who may not be aware of the right to refuse consent to a search or to limit its scope and duration. The court stated the following:

“When police officers conduct a “knock and talk” for the purposes of obtaining consent to search a home, and thereby avoid the necessity of obtaining a warrant, they must, prior to entering the home, inform the person from whom consent is sought that he or she maylawfully refuse to consent to the search and that they can revoke, at any time, the consent that they give, and can limit the scope of the consent to certain areas of the home. The failure to provide these warnings, prior to entering the home, vitiates any consent given thereafter.”

Importantly, and after Ferrier was decided, the WA Supreme Court has since ruled under State v. Ruem that Ferrier warnings are not required when law enforcement officers seek consent to enter a home and execute an arrest warrant. Instead, Ferrier warnings are required only when law enforcement officers are conducting a “knock and talk”: entering the home without a search warrant to search for contraband or evidence of a crime.

Here, the officers were not required to give Ms. Westvang any Ferrier warnings because they were not requesting entry to her home to search for contraband or evidence of a crime pursuant to a “knock and talk.” The officers observed Westvang’s consent to enter her home to execute and arrest warrant. Therefore, no Ferrier warnings were required. Based on this reasoning, the WA Court of Appeals affirmed Westvang’s conviction.

My opinion? Cases like this are never easy. Consent walks hand-in-hand with duress. It’s very difficult for the average citizen to say “No” to law enforcement. Instinctively, we believe that refusing to cooperate with an officers request to search will only hinder their duties and bring harsher consequences for failing to cooperate. In these cases, and as soon as possible, it’s always wise to respectfully deny their questions and contact an attorney regarding your legal rights.

State v. Schultz: Warrantless Search of Home

Excellent opinion.

http://caselaw.findlaw.com/wa-supreme-court/1373311.html

Officers received a 911 call about a couple was yelling inside their apartment.  Officers drove to the scene.  The woman consented to the officer’s request to enter the apartment.  Officers found a marijuana pipe.  Upon their find, they also conducted a more intrusive – and warrantless – search of the apartment.  Methamphetamine was found.

The WA Supremes reasoned the test for an emergency aid exception (also called Exigent Circumstances) entry has been expanded to include the following elements: (1) The police officer subjectively believed that someone likely needed assistance for health or safety concerns; (2) a reasonable person in the same situation would similarly believe that there was need for assistance; (3) there was a reasonable basis to associate the need for assistance with the place being searched; (4) there is an imminent threat of substantial injury to persons or property; (5) state agents must believe a specific person or persons or property are in need of immediate help for health or safety reasons; and (6) the claimed emergency is not a mere pretext for an evidentiary search.

They further reasoned that here, the mere acquiescence to an officer’s entry is not consent to search.  It is also not an exception to our state’s constitutional protection of the privacy of the home. Finally, while the likelihood of domestic violence may be considered by courts when evaluating whether the requirements of the emergency aid exception to the warrant requirement have been satisfied, the warrantless entry in this case was unnecessary.  Officers merely heard raised voices from outside the home.  The agitated and flustered woman who answered the door indicated that no one else was present in the home.  No emergency existed.

My opinion?  Good decision.  Granting a police officer’s request to enter the home is not, by itself, consent to search the home.  Period.

State v. Winterstein: Parole Officers Cannot Search A Home If Facts Do Not Support the Officer’s Belief That Probationer Lives There.

Another good opinion; addresses warrantless searches of a defendant’s home.

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/?fa=opinions.disp&filename=807558MAJ

Terry Lee Winterstein was convicted of Unlawful Manufacture of Methamphetamine after his probation officer conducted a warrantless search of his residence. After trial, Winterstein’s counsel discovered that Winterstein had reported a change of address with the Department of Corrections at least three weeks prior to the search.  Neverthless, the probation officer searched Winterstein’s prior residence. Winterstein argued that the evidence gathered as a result of the warrantless search should be suppressed because his probation officer did not have the authority of law to search a house that was not Winterstein’s documented residence.

The trial court denied the motion and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals also held that regardless of the illegal search, the evidence could be admissible under the “inevitable discovery doctrine”—that is, evidence that police would have ultimately or inevitably discovered through other (lawful) means.

The case wound its way up to the WA Supreme Court.

First, the Court addressed whether the probation officer’s search of the Winterstein’s former residence was proper.  They reasoned that, generally speaking, individuals under Department of Corrections supervision have a lesser expectation of privacy, and can be searched on the basis of a reasonable suspicion of a probation violation.  However, the Court also said that probation officers must have probable cause—a higher standard—to believe that their probationers live at the residences they search:

“In this context, probable cause exists when an officer has information that would lead a person of reasonable caution to believe that the probationer lives at the place to be searched. The information known to the officer must be reasonably trustworthy. Only facts and knowledge available to the officer at the time of the search should be considered.”

Second, the Supremes addressed the Inevitable Discovery Doctrine.  They reasoned it is well-established that article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution provides greater protection of privacy rights than the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Section 7 says: “No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.” While federal cases have allowed for inevitable discovery, and the state Court of Appeals has applied the doctrine, the Supreme Court said the doctrine is “speculative and does not disregard illegally obtained evidence”—and is therefore incompatible with the state constitution’s expansive protection of privacy.

My opinion?  Extremely well-articulated and correct decision.  The WA Supremes’ handling/dispatching of the Inevitable Discovery Doctrine acknowledges the expanded freedoms under the WA Constitution in comparison to the U.S. Constitution.  Admitting evidence under the Inevitable Discovery Doctrine leaves no incentive for the State to comply with the constitution’s requirement that arrests precede searches.