No knock warrant executed


In 1996, David Sullivan was serving as the director of the Central Delta Drug Task Force. Sullivan began an investigation of Robert White after receiving intelligence reports from various law enforcement agencies in Sunflower County, Mississippi. Through a confidential informant it was discovered that White was selling crack cocaine from his residence at 215 Southwest Plaza, Indianola, Mississippi. Sullivan also learned that a previous search of this residence by the Task Force had turned up firearms and a small quantity of cocaine. A controlled buy was arranged in which the confidential informant purchased $50 worth of crack cocaine from the residence.

A second informant advised the Task Force that White had fortified his residence by placing a six foot wood fence around the rear of the residence and a six to eight foot electrified fence around the front of the residence. The informant advised that the front fencing contained razor wire on top. The source conveyed to the Task Force that to enter the residence one had to proceed through a large electric gate in the front of the home.

The informant further advised that each window and each door of the house had security bars, and that White had purchased a rottweiler which ran loose in the yard area. The source also had observed several drug transactions at the residence which were completed through a steel security door which contained a slot located around the door knob area. The source said that the security door was secured by three dead bolt locks, and that the individuals dealing the drugs inside the residence would not open the door during the transactions.

It was determined through this source that the business hours of this house were approximately 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sullivan personally observed the house in question, discovering it to be a single family brick dwelling, with an unenclosed carport, with a front door, a back door, and a carport door, each having a steel security door.

A decision was made to infiltrate the house and conduct a search of the residence. On March 7, 1996, Sullivan conducted a meeting with at least fifteen law enforcement officers. All relevant information was presented by affidavit to Justice Court Judge Charlotte Buchanan in order to obtain a search warrant. The affidavit specifically asked “Affiant also requests that this warrant be titled a No-Knock Search Warrant for the purposes of securing individuals at the residence and to prevent destruction of evidence prior to officers being able to gain entry. Also based on affiant’s experience as a narcotics investigator this will afford additional safety for approaching officers at the time the warrant is executed.”

A search warrant was issued; however, it contained the following language “THEREFORE, you are hereby commanded to proceed at any time in the day or night to the place described above and to search forthwith said place for the things specified above, making known to the person or persons occupying or controlling said place, if any, your authority and purpose for so doing, before making a search or forcible entry prior to said search . . . .”

Ideally Sullivan wanted to arrive at the home at a time when the gate was open. A drive-by was conducted ten minutes before the raid, and the gate was open. However, when the raid actually commenced, the gate was closed. The raid began around 9:30 p.m. and consisted of a caravan of five vehicles. As Sullivan drove toward the residence, he saw that the gate was closed. Sullivan believing he was now committed, decided to open the gate with any means possible.

Sullivan drove his Dodge Ram through the front gate. Three teams exited the vehicles in order to cover each door. A sledge hammer was used in an attempt to enter through the front, but this attempt was unsuccessful. A hydraulic press was used on the carport door which successfully opened the door. At the same time the officers were trying to gain entry into the house other officers broke out windows and sprayed mace in both the master bedroom and kitchen. During the raid officers continuously shouted “Search warrant, Sheriff’s Department,” and “Search warrant, Police.”

White was apprehended as he came out of his bedroom. White was carrying an automatic pistol. The pistol was not loaded, and its slide was locked to the rear. Officers told White to drop the gun. White complied and was taken into custody. White’s wife and daughter were secured in the hallway of the home. A search of the house produced cocaine residue, weapons, and various items associated with drug trafficking.

White was convicted of possession of cocaine and felon in possession of a firearm and sentenced to nine years. On appeal, he argued the no knock warrant was illegal. MCOA affirmed.


White points out that while Mississippi at one time had a statute, Miss. Code Ann. § 41- 29-157(c) (Rev. 1993), which specifically allowed “no-knock” searches, the particular subsection allowing “no-knock” searches was automatically repealed after July 1, 1974 and is no longer in effect. White contends that in the absence of such a statute a “no-knock” warrants cannot be issued.

Next, White argues that even if Mississippi allows “no-knock” warrant that the circumstances of this case did not justify a “no- knock” warrant; therefore, the search in this case was unreasonable. Finally, White argues that under Strange v. State, 530 So. 2d 1336 (Miss. 1988), a searching officer’s authority is limited to that conferred by the warrant. White maintains that the search warrant specifically stated that it was a “knock- and-announce” warrant; therefore, the executing officers exceeded their authority and violated White’s constitutional rights.

We are not persuaded by White’s arguments. Although Miss. Code Ann. § 41-29-157(c) (Rev.
1993) is no longer in effect that does not mean “no-knock” warrants can never be issued. Mississippi has no statute which specifically prohibits “no-knock” warrants, and our case law has never prohibited the issuance of “no-knock” warrants.

Furthermore, the United States Supreme Court in Wilson v Arkansas, 514 U.S. 927 (1995), has clearly held that “no-knock warrants” are permissible under the Fourth Amendment:

For now, we leave to the lower courts the task of determining the circumstances under which an unannounced entry is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. We simply hold that although a search or seizure of a dwelling might be constitutionally defective if police officers enter without prior announcement, law enforcement interests may also establish the reasonableness of an unannounced entry.

In addition, the United States Supreme Court in Richards v. Wisconsin, 520 U.S. 385 (1997) has held:

In order to justify a “no-knock” entry, the police must have a 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. . . . This showing is not high, but the police should be required to make it whenever the reasonableness of a no-knock entry is challenged.

Given the particular circumstances of this case, we hold that a “no-knock” warrant was both justified and reasonable in this instance. White was living in a virtual fortress. Any announcement made by the officers would only give White more time to destroy evidence. Furthermore, as the underlying facts supporting the warrant indicated, White was a convicted felon and a previous search of the residence had produced firearms. Therefore, the safety of the officers involved justified a “no-knock” warrant.

In addition, most if not all officers yelled out their purpose and identity as they conducted the raid. There were substantial reasons for the issuance of a “no-knock” warrant in this case, and the warrant was executed reasonably.

White’s final argument under this assignment is that the warrant explicitly stated it was a “knock-and- announce” warrant, and that the officers exceeded their authority by executing a “no-knock” search. White’s argument is based on a reading of Strange. However, White’s reliance on Strange is misplaced.

Strange involved a case where an officer swore out an affidavit for a search warrant on the evening of October 15, 1984. The warrant was granted but specifically stated it should be executed in the day time. The only testimony countermanding the explicit language of the search warrant was the fact the issuing judge had told the officer before the warrant was issued “to proceed forthwith.” MSC found this argument to be specious at best, and held that Judge Hudson issued the warrant in the form before us in this record establishes as a matter of law that the officer’s authority was limited to conducting a search in the day time.

In our case, the issuing magistrate, Justice Court Judge Charlotte Buchanan, testified at the suppression hearing as opposed to Strange where the only thing evidencing the judge’s intent was the warrant itself. Buchanan testified clearly that she was asked to issue a “no-knock” warrant, and that it was her full intention to issue a “no-knock” warrant.

Buchanan further testified that the search warrant in question was a standard one given to her, and she merely failed to strike out the “knock-and-announce” language of the warrant. Buchanan unequivocally stated that it was her intent to issue a “no-knock” warrant, and that she informed the officer-affiant of this intent.

There is no reason why a clerical mistake on part of the judge should result in the suppression of the evidence seized. Accordingly, this issue is without merit.