IA: Violation of knock-and-announce statute requires suppression

When the target of an arrest warrant opens the door, state statute requires announcement and not just barging in. Here, defendant was compliant and opened the door. The officers needed to announce their purpose. The alleged plain view inside is suppressed for violating the announcement statute. State v. Sorensen, 2023 Iowa App. LEXIS 199 (Mar. 8, 2023):

To complete an arrest in a person’s home, the legislature gave law enforcement several steps to follow in section 804.15. And we must interpret the language of the statute to give the words meaning. See Hornby v. State, 559 N.W.2d 23, 25 (Iowa 1977) (“We are guided by what the legislature actually said, rather than what it might have or should have said.”). Under the steps provided by section 804.15 and the guidance of Kubit, as a final step before entry, Trooper Barnes was required to demand entrance to effectuate the arrest and give Sorensen the opportunity to comply. This opportunity to comply is essential because it is the compliance or noncompliance of the individual that either confers or extinguishes an officer’s ability to enter the home with only an arrest warrant. Kubit, 627 N.W.2d at 923. “If an arrest warrant allows police to enter the home regardless of the actions of the suspect, the purpose of section 804.15 is eviscerated and the protection of the Fourth Amendment’s search warrant requirement is destroyed.” Id. at 922.

A “purpose of this ‘knock and announce rule’ is to protect the privacy of the citizen and is governed under the reasonableness requirement of the Fourth Amendment.”8 Id. at 921. Yet, it seems somewhat unnecessary that, once Sorensen knew the troopers were there to arrest him and at his doorway, they then had to use the magic words to get permission to enter. But we cannot predict what might have been the course taken if Trooper Barnes had asked for entry to execute the arrest warrant. Sorensen, by all accounts, remained cooperative, so he may have precluded any entry by the troopers by simply leaving the home and going with them. In that scenario, no drug contraband would have been seen. Or he may have granted admittance, where in such case, once he moved to get clothing, Trooper Barnes was constitutionally authorized to follow and there, the resulting plain view exception to the warrantless search would be viable. See State v. Tolsdorf, 574 N.W.2d 290, 292 (Iowa 1998) (applying the rule to the search of a vehicle but discussing premises-search cases as well); State v. Skola, No. 00-1643, 2001 Iowa App. LEXIS 659, 2001 WL 1446979, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Nov. 16, 2001) (recognizing the cursory safety check exception). In the balancing of interests, the statute and our cases require that Sorensen have the chance to opt to leave the home with the troopers where he appears to be cooperating.

Caution: This outcome likely would not be the same under the Fourth Amendment.

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