Tag Archive: Warrant

No Knock Entry: It’s Not Just For Breaking and Entering

On Friday, November 19, 2010, Fox aired the episode “Supercops” of the show The Good Guys.  The show follows Detectives Dan Stark and Jack Bailey of the Dallas Police Department, played by Bradley Whitford and Colin Hanks, respectively.  This episode follows Stark and Bailey as they investigate a diamond theft.  The investigation takes Stark and Bailey to many locations in Dallas.  While the detectives are following multiple leads, the owners of the diamonds, who are criminals, are chasing the thieves as well.

After Stark finds new information regarding the theft, he and Bailey go to the suspects’ home to follow up on the lead.  At this point in the investigation, there is not sufficient evidence to give probable cause for a warrant to search any location.  The detectives arrive at the home of two men who had previously been questioned during the investigation.  While approaching the house, they spot bullet holes in the windows.  The two detectives immediately become suspicious and enter the home as if it were an unsafe environment.  Their entrance into the house occurs without a warrant and without knocking.

In criminal procedure, officers must have reasonable suspicion to justify certain actions that may infringe on individual rights. The Fourth Amendment protects a person from unlawful searches and seizures.  A search and/or seizure can be authorized with a warrant.  A warrant is only to be issued if authorities can show probable cause.  The guidelines for warrantless searches are not included in the Constitution.

Exigent circumstances allow officers to conduct a search without a warrant or to conduct a no knock entry when one is not authorized in the warrant.  Exigent circumstances require that people be in imminent danger, that evidence might be destroyed or that a suspect might be escaping. In the episode, the bullet holes in the window imply gun fire,  and that people may be in danger inside the home.  The officers seeing indications of danger and knowing the gravity of the theft they are investigating, likely have sufficient reason to be alarmed.  This would satisfy the requirements of the exigent circumstances for a warrantless entrance.

Rizzoli & Isles: The Beast in Me

In the opening scene of the September 6th episode of Rizzoli and Isles, detectives are staring at a car with an obvious murder victim. They then say that they are unable to investigate the car and murder victim closely because they lack a search warrant. One detective indicates that the judges are on an extended holiday weekend so the search warrant will not be available and Rizzoli makes a quick joke about judges and long holidays. This leads to the question of whether or not the police actually need a search warrant to search a car that is clearly the scene of a murder. While according to Mincey v. Arizona there is no murder-scene investigation exception to the warrant rule, the ruling wouldn’t apply to a clear murder scene in a vehicle. The murder victim was in plain view of the police officers. According to the plain view doctrine, the police officers would then be authorized to search the vehicle without a warrant making the entire exchange between Rizzoli and the detective as an entertainment filler. While it was an interesting opening scene, it was just an example of the creative liberties that television writers make in crime thrillers.

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