In 2019, an investigator with the Greenville, Mississippi, Police Department obtained from a municipal court judge (the issuing judge) a no-knock search warrant for Antoine Bryant’s residence. In support of the warrant, the investigator submitted an affidavit specifying the request was for a no- knock search warrant; and outlined Bryant’s alleged criminal activity involving drugs and firearms.
The “Underlying Facts and Circumstances” attached to the affidavit provided the investigator’s background as a law-enforcement officer and narcotics investigator; and the information he believed gave rise to probable cause that evidence located at Bryant’s residence was connected with the sale of controlled substances and firearms.
The investigator relied on a “Coded Credible and Reliable Confidential Informant” (informant) who advised: Bryant was affiliated with an individual who sold drugs; they exchanged drugs and did business together; and Bryant sold marihuana, cocaine, and firearms from his residence. The informant’s credibility was established by previous information he provided regarding controlled-substance violations in Washington County (in which Greenville is located).
The underlying facts further detailed that, between June 9 and 11 2019, the informant conducted a controlled buy at Bryant’s residence, purchasing 0.87 grams of marihuana. (The Government did not prosecute this sale; rather, it contends it was for the purpose of establishing probable cause for the warrant at issue.) Officers executed the warrant on June 17 2019, during which Bryant was present. The search produced marihuana and a loaded .380 caliber handgun.
Bryant was indicted for possession of a firearm by a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). He moved to suppress the firearm, and all evidence and statements obtained from the search, contending it occurred as a result of an improperly issued no-knock search warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
At the hearing on the suppression motion, the investigator and issuing judge testified to the basis for, and grant of, both the search warrant and its no-knock provision. Bryant emphasized that the “crux of the suppression motion” concerned the no-knock portion. The motion was denied, which concluded that suppression was unwarranted under the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule; and a civil remedy for the no-knock provision was the appropriate recourse, not suppression. The court did not address whether the no-knock provision was proper.
Bryant pleaded guilty reserving the right to appeal the adverse suppression ruling. The 5th affirmed.
The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Although not constitutionally mandated, the common-law knock-and-announce principle forms a part of the reasonableness inquiry under the Fourth Amendment. See SCOTUS case Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U.S. 927 (1995). Although the underlying search warrant must be supported by probable cause, the execution of a search warrant absent knocking-and- announcing requires showing reasonable suspicion that an exigency exists. See SCOTUS case Hudson v. Michigan, 547 U.S. 586 (2006). Accordingly, a challenge to an underlying warrant is distinct from a challenge to a claimed knock-and-announce violation, occurring either upon execution of, or through a no-knock provision in, a search warrant.
Bryant mistakenly conflates the no-knock provision and the search warrant containing it. A no-knock search warrant only differs from a traditional search warrant in that the former abrogates the knock-and- announce requirement prior to execution of the warrant. See SCOTUS case Richards v. Wisconsin, 520 U.S. 385 (1997).
Bryant maintains that the court erred in denying his suppression motion because there were no exigent circumstances justifying the no-knock warrant for his residence; and the good-faith exception should not apply to save the invalid no-knock provision. Additionally, he asserts the court erred in ruling that a civil action for money damages was the appropriate remedy for the no- knock warrant violation. The Government counters that the court correctly applied the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule in denying Bryant’s suppression motion; and suppression is not the appropriate remedy for a challenge to a no-knock provision in a search warrant.
For the good-faith exception to apply, the executing officer’s reliance on the issuing-judge’s probable-cause determination and the technical sufficiency of the warrant must have been objectively reasonable. See Gibbs. Both Bryant and the Government address the good-faith exception at length. Notably however, as the district court stated correctly in its order denying the suppression motion, Bryant’s briefing indicates that the existence of probable cause is not genuinely disputed here. In our court, as in district court, Bryant does not challenge probable cause for the warrant, only the basis for the approval of its no-knock provision. In the light of Bryant’s failing to challenge the underlying probable-cause determination, any claims regarding the inapplicability of the good-faith exception are waived.
Because Bryant does not challenge the underlying probable cause, we turn to the no-knock aspect of the warrant. The common law principle that law enforcement officers must announce their presence and provide residents an opportunity to open the door has been part of federal statutory law since 1917 and is codified at 18 U.S.C. § 3109.” See Bruno. (Here, of course, the warrant was not obtained or executed by federal law enforcement. The same is true of the warrant at issue in Hudson.) The knock-and-announce requirement is abrogated when officers possess reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing their presence, under the particular circumstances, would be dangerous or futile, or that it would inhibit the effective investigation of the crime by, for example, allowing the destruction of evidence.
Such reasonable suspicion may arise when officers submit a search warrant application or at execution. (Issuing no-knock warrants may be reasonable when sufficient cause to do so can be demonstrated ahead of time; however, a decision not to authorize a no-knock entry should not be interpreted to remove the officers’ authority to exercise independent judgment concerning the wisdom of a no-knock entry at the time the warrant is being executed.). When a warrant applicant gives reasonable grounds to expect futility or to suspect that one or another such exigency already exists or will arise instantly upon knocking, a judge is acting within the Constitution to authorize a ‘no-knock’ entry. See SCOTUS case United States v. Banks, 540 U.S. 31 (2003).
Evidence obtained as a direct result of an unconstitutional search or seizure is plainly subject to exclusion. See SCOTUS case Segura v. United States, 468 U.S. 796 (1984). The exclusionary rule operates as a judicially created remedy designed to safeguard Fourth Amendment rights generally through its deterrent effect, rather than a personal constitutional right of the party aggrieved. See SCOTUS case United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984).
Case law provides the proper recourse for a claimed knock-and- announce violation. The district court correctly adopted the Government’s position that, under Hudson, suppression is not the appropriate remedy for a violation of the constitutional knock-and-announce requirement, instead civil monetary damages are proper.
Again, even a favorable reading of Bryant’s position shows he challenges the issuance of the no-knock provision in the search warrant. Because this incorrectly commingles a knock-and-announce violation with the validity of the underlying search warrant, the district court correctly concluded suppression is not available as a remedy. Bryant’s sole remedy is civil damages.
And, having held suppression is not the appropriate remedy, we need not reach the validity of the no-knock provision.