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Craig Mastantuono & Leah Thomas March 7, 2019

When police get a search warrant for a property, they have the ability to request what's called a "no-knock" warrant. A no-knock warrant authorizes police to enter that property to search it without having to announce themselves first, which means that they enter by using force. Authorization for forceful entry warrants where the police do not have to knock and announce themselves actually started in Wisconsin: Richards v. Wisconsin, a 1997 case out of the US Supreme Court. In that case, police forced their way into Richards' hotel room without announcment to search for drugs. Richards challenged the entry and warrant seizure. On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the State asked the Court to grant a blanket rule that would allow police to enter a property without knocking anytime there was a felony drug investigation. The Supreme Court declined that invitation, but still authorized no-knock warrants that met the following standard: reasonable suspicion to believe that knocking and announcing police presence would be dangerous or would inhibit an effective investigation, through destruction of evidence, for example. The result is that police must apply to a court for a no-knock warrant, and the court decides whether to grant the search warrant, and then whether to grant the no-knock provision, based on the specific facts in the warrant affidavit. 

Craig Mastantuono spoke with WUWM's Latoya Dennis last week about no-knock warrants, and the recent death of Milwaukee Police Officer Matthew Rittner while executing a no-knock warrant. While there are no statistics on how often they are requested or granted, but no-knock warrants are certainly not uncommon in Wisconsin. That's contrary to the California police expert cited in the WUWM story, who stated that no-knock warrants are uncommon. 

At Mastantuono & Coffee, we have had many cases involving no-knock search warrants and many more where announcement was required. In either case, our team reviews all search warrants carefully to make sure that our client's rights are protected. We look closely for issues with the warrant and affidavit, and file available constitutional challenges. A challenge to a search warrant - like a lack of evidence for the warrant to have been issued - can result in suppression of the evidence that was recovered. This means that the government can't use that evidence against our client at trial. If you'd like to read more about the Fourth Amendment, and search and seizure law, check out our summaries and explanations in this link

If you have a case involving a search warrant, call the team at Mastantuono & Coffee to find out if we can help you. Contact Us today. 

ed. note: M&C Law Investigator Emeritus Marcus Ruiz was close friends with Officer Rittner, with whom he served two tours of combat duty in the Iraq War. Our deepest condolences go out to the Rittner family, Marcus, M.P.D. and U.S.M.C. family for their tragic loss.