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"Knock and announce" rule violations require suppression

Robert Perkins

In an important search and seizure case decided last week, the Superior Court held that any violation of the “knock and announce” rule requires suppression.  A link to the Frederick decision is here.  While the knock and announce rule is codified in the Rules of Criminal Procedure – see Pa.R.CrimP. 207 – the Superior Court also took the occasion to explain and clarify the Rule’s contours. 

[T]he [knock and announce] rule requires that police officers announce their identity, purpose and authority and then wait a reasonable amount of time for the occupants to respond prior to entering any private premises.”  The rule is “relaxed only in the presence of exigent circumstances.” 

There are only four recognized exigent circumstances:

1. the occupants remain silent after repeated knocking and announcing;

2. the police are virtually certain that the occupants of the premises already know their purpose;

3. the police have reason to believe that an announcement prior to entry would imperil their safety; or

4. the police have reason to believe that evidence is about to be destroyed.

The Frederick Court further explained that “[t]he purpose of the ‘knock and announce’ rule is to prevent violence and physical injury to the police and occupants, to protect an occupant's privacy expectation against the unauthorized entry of unknown persons, and to prevent property damage resulting from forced entry.”  These important purposes may “be achieved only through police officers’ full compliance.”  Consequently, “the remedy for noncompliance with the knock and announce rule is always suppression.”