17 November 2012


Knock-and-announce is a term created by the courts to describe the requirement set out in 808.5 of the Iowa Code of law enforcement to announce themselves before they come busting into your house to search for some contraband or illegal substance. Once a search warrant has been obtained from a judge, the entry team gathers and those who will be participating in the execution of the warrant don their ninja outfits, arm themselves with what weaponry they deem necessary for their own protection, grab the battering ram to smash in the door, and drive to the place where they believe criminal activity is afoot. Searches are expected to be reasonable. Reasonable searches are mandated by both the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the State of Iowa the purpose of which is the idea that we all should be safe and secure in our own homes. The question is, of course, what is reasonable. We have created what are called entry teams. These teams are comprised of members of various law enforcement agencies who throughout their lives have ingested far too many TV cop shows and have convinced themselves that people who commit crimes deserve no respect. When law enforcement shows up at your door to serve a search warrant and knock and announce their purpose, you as a resident of that dwelling are required to give them immediate access. Here we have another one of those terms that may mean one thing to you as the home owner and another, entirely different meaning to those executing the warrant. To you as a home owner, immediate may very well mean the time required to get up out of your chair, walk to the door, see who is there, and open it. On the other hand, the term immediate to the entry team means instantly. To law enforcement it doesn't matter if you might be on the john, or asleep, or putting the kid to bed, or at the other end of the house. If the door is not opened instantly, wood and glass go flying over the floor, men in their ninja outfits are running through the door with guns drawn yelling at you to lay on the floor. Two reasons are given for this sudden and frightening entry into your house: (1) you may have time to run to the place where you have stashed your stash and flush it down the toilet and (2) officer safety. The second reason given is my personal favorite. Whenever questioned about the suddenness and force used in an entry of a home, the response is normally officer safety. This is the mantra, the rationale, for destroying your door. What the reason is, which would never be admitted, nor could it be, is that it is much more fun. Pulverizing doors and scaring the crap out of people is so much more fun than having some known criminal compliantly opening the door. Police work is really boring when you think about it and when there is a chance of a little excitement, most officers jump at the chance.