Recent New Jersey Case Concerning Knock and Announce Rule Discussed by Criminal Law Attorney Maurice Giro

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Maurice Giro, a private attorney who also serves as a Municipal Public Defender and a Pool Attorney for the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, discusses a recent case brought before the New Jersey Appellate Division. Giro discusses the ruling’s impact on the “knock and announce” rule in New Jersey.

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The New Jersey Appellate Division’s written opinion in the case of New Jersey v. Hiram Rodriguez (399 N.J. Super. 192 (2008)) is a victory for New Jersey citizens’ rights, indicating that in the future New Jersey courts may continue to bar (barring) the use of evidence obtained by police who do not follow the “knock and announce” rule, says criminal law attorney Maurice Giro.

“The ‘knock and announce rule’ states that police should take certain steps and wait a reasonable amount of time before entering a person’s home, with a search warrant, without being let in,” Giro says. “The ruling in New Jersey v. Hiram Rodriguez indicates that New Jersey courts may continue to protect state citizens from government intrusion.”

On March 28, the court ruled that police had not violated Hiram Rodriguez’s rights while executing a search warrant. In the case, the police knocked on the door of an apartment, waited 10 to 15 seconds, knocked again, yelled, “Police, search warrant!”, waited another 15 to 20 seconds, and then entered the apartment. The court found the police’s actions reasonable.

The Appellate Division discussed the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Hudson v. Michigan, (547 U.S. 586 (2006)), where the Supreme Court ruled that when police do not follow the “knock and announce” rule, the exclusionary rule should not be applied because the homeowner can be protected in other ways, such as suing the police for damages caused to a door, and because citizens now have additional safeguards, such as police now paying more attention to internal police discipline.

“The exclusionary rule is a legal rule stating that evidence police obtain illegally cannot be used against you at trial. Theoretically, the rule protects our rights by removing the motivation for police to violate our rights, since the evidence found generally can’t be used against the accused,” Giro says. “This rule protects individuals from unreasonable police interference in their day-to-day lives.”

While it did not have to address the decision in the Hudson case, the New Jersey Appellate Division indicated that if the issue arises again, it would probably not follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding, Giro says. In particular, the New Jersey court stated, “Consequently, in determining the values embraced by our state constitution, we think the majority opinion in Hudson should not be followed since Justice Breyer’s dissenting opinion appears far more in tune with the manner in which our courts have interpreted and applied the similar provisions of the state constitution.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s reasons for holding that the exclusionary rule should not apply in ‘knock and announce’ cases shows that the court is less interested in protecting our rights and more interested in removing obstacles that the police run into while investigating cases,” Giro says. “In the future, perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court will rule that instead of needing the exclusionary rule, we can now tell the police ‘Stop being naughty’ whenever they violate our rights.”

About Maurice Giro
Mr. Giro is an attorney at law licensed in New Jersey, New York and the United States District Court of New Jersey. He is a Municipal Public Defender and a Pool Attorney for the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender. His practice focuses on defending people accused of crimes in both Superior and Municipal Court, as well as traffic offenses, including DWI. He can be reached at:

Law Office of Maurice Giro, L.L.C.
560 60th Street
West New York, NJ, 07093
(866) 433-4432

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