Newsbrief: Federal Court Ruling on No-Knock Search Raises Questions About Standard Procedure in Kansas City 1/10/03

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A federal magistrate in Kansas City, MO, ruled late last month that police illegally searched a drug suspect's home because they used a no-knock warrant without justifying the need for one. Police are normally required to announce themselves, knock on the door, and wait a reasonable amount of time for an answer. Exceptions to the rule require specific justifications, such as a suspect's violent past. But police testifying in the case told the court they routinely obtained no-knock warrants to protect officers and gain the element of surprise -- not because of specific fears.

That is a no-no, ruled Magistrate Judge Sarah Hays. "There is no blanket exception to the knock and announce requirement in a drug investigation," she wrote, ruling that evidence seized from cocaine conspiracy defendant Montonio Workcuff could not be used in his trial. But Hays bypassed an opportunity to extend her ruling to all search warrants in Jackson County (Kansas City). "The court will rule on these issues only as they apply to defendant Workcuff's case, she wrote.

Because Kansas City police testified that they routinely obtained no-knock warrants, the ruling could potentially affect hundreds of cases, Workcuff attorney Patrick Peters told the Kansas City Star. Attorney David Smith, who recently won a $2 million settlement for a client in another search warrant case, agreed, adding the ruling should be a heads-up for local law enforcement. "The Kansas City Police Department can't circumvent the Constitution," he said.

Although the Kansas City Police Department was "reviewing the decision" and had no comment for the Star, Presiding Jackson County Circuit Judge Jay Daugherty told the newspaper county judges would review the decision to see whether they needed to change search warrant procedures. The Kansas City US Attorneys Office has not yet decided whether it will appeal the ruling, but it has asked for a postponement in Workcuff's trial, set for next Monday.

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Issue #271, 1/10/03 The Road to Mérida: Interviews with Participants in the "Out from the Shadows" Campaign | The Road to Mérida: Interview with Mario Menéndez, Publisher of !Por Esto!, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico | The Road to Mérida: Dr. Jaime Malamud-Goti, former Argentine Solicitor General | Latin American Anti-Prohibition Conference, Feb. 12-15, Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico | Cumbre Internacional Sobre Legalización, 15-Dec Febrero, Mérida, México | Canada Cannabis Conundrum Continued: Government Will Appeal Ontario Ruling, Prosecutors to Put Possession Cases on Hold | Newsbrief: Eyeing Stiffer Meth Penalties in West Virginia | Newsbrief: First Local Salvia Divinorum Ordinance Proposed | Newsbrief: Huffington SUV-Terrorism Ad Parodies Drug Czar's Drug-Terrorism Campaign | Newsbrief: Corrupt Cops of the Week | Newsbrief: Ontario Court Clears Tokin' Motorist of DWI Charge | Newsbrief: Massachusetts Cops Slow to Act on Racial Profiling Law | Newsbrief: New Jersey Seeks to Delay Ban on Asset Forfeiture, Will Appeal Ruling | Newsbrief: Federal Court Ruling on No-Knock Search Raises Questions About Standard Procedure in Kansas City | Web Scan: Maia Szalavitz in Slate, GAO on Colombia Coca, Globe and Mail on Ontario Marijuana Ruling | DC Job Opportunity at DRCNet -- Campus Coordinator | The Reformer's Calendar

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