United States v. Ramirez, 523 U.S. 65 (1998)

2012-09-20 15:33:38

In United States v. Ramirez, police were given reliable information that a dangerous escaped prisoner—Alan Shelby—was residing with Hernan Ramirez and that the Ramirez home had a stockpile of weapons in the garage, so they obtained a ‘‘no-knock’’ warrant, a warrant that allows police to enter a residence without first announcing themselves. While executing the search warrant, police smashed in the garage window and pointed a gun through it to deter occupants from seizing the weapons. Awakened by the noise and believing he was being burglarized, Ramirez, a convicted felon, grabbed a weapon from his closet and fired it into the ceiling. Once Ramirez realized it was the police, he surrendered.

Ramirez was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, but the District Court and Ninth Circuit suppressed evidence on the ground that the police lacked the authority to destroy property (the garage window) while executing the no-knock warrant. The Supreme Court ruled that the search did not violate the Fourth Amendment. The Court relied on Richards v. Wisconsin, where the Court held that a noknock entry is constitutional if the police have ‘‘reasonable suspicion’’ that knocking and announcing would cause injury or destruction of evidence. The Supreme Court determined that the destruction of property had nothing to do with the constitutionality of the no-knock search under Richards. Ramirez stands for the proposition that police do not need a higher justification or Burden of Proof if they destroy property when executing a ‘‘no-knock’’ warrant.


References and Further Reading

  • Hatcher, Susan, Recent Developments, American Journal of Criminal Law 25 (1998) 2:473–475.
  • Hemmens, Craig, I Hear You Knocking: The Supreme Court Revisits the Knock and Announce Rule, UMKC Law Review 66 (1998): 3:559–602.
  • Hemmens, Craig, and Chris Mathias, United States v. Banks: The ‘‘Knock and Announce’’ Rule Returns to the Supreme Court, Idaho Law Review 41 (2004): 1–36.

Cases and Statutes Cited

  • United States v. Ramirez, 523 U.S. 65 (1998)
  • Richards v. Wisconsin, 520 U.S. 385 (1997)

See also Search (General Definition); Search Warrant