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Ohio Supreme Court Holds Exclusion of Evidence Inappropriate Remedy for Violation of Knock-And-Announce Principle Where Search Warrant Issued

by Mark Wilson

The Ohio Supreme Court held that once a warrant has been issued, the exclusion of evidence is not an appropriate remedy when police violate the knock-and-announce rule.

In October 2012, Boardman Police officers supervised two “controlled buys” by an informant, who purchased heroin from Harsimran Singh. Based upon those buys and Singh’s prior drug arrest, police secured a search warrant for the apartment that Singh shared with his girlfriend, Sherri Bembry.

Police executed the warrant on November 2, 2012. After officers knocked several times, someone inside the apartment asked, “Who is it?” An officer replied, “Police. Open the door.”

When the occupant still did not open the door, police forced the door open with a battering ram. Singh was taken from the apartment and thrown to the ground. Police found marijuana, heroin, drug paraphernalia, a stolen .38-caliber pistol, an AK-47 assault rifle, and two loaded magazines.

Singh and Bembry were both charged with drug offenses. They jointly moved to suppress all evidence obtained during the search, arguing that the search violated the Fourth Amendment, as well as Article I, Section 14, of the Ohio Constitution because police violated the knock-and-announce rule codified as Ohio Revised Code 2935.12.

The trial court agreed and suppressed the evidence seized during the search, finding that police violated O.R.C. 2935.12 without any exigent circumstances justifying the violation.

The Ohio Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the facts of Bembry and Singh’s case were “virtually identical” to the facts in Hudson v. Michigan,547 U.S. 586 (2006), in which the United States Supreme Court held that “the massive remedy suppressing evidence of guilt is unjustified” when police armed with a search warrant violate the knock-and-announce rule. Applying the reasoning in Hudson, the Ohio Court of Appeals vacated the suppression order.

The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed, finding “the United States Supreme Court’s reasoning in Hudson to be far more persuasive than the arguments made by Bembry and Singh.” Following the rationale set forth in Hudson, the Court found that “it makes fundamental sense that we would not restore privacy to the contents of a home to remedy the violation of a rule that applies only after the interest in privacy in the home has been overridden” by a search warrant.

The Court was persuaded to interpret Article I, Section 14, of the Ohio Constitution consistently with the Fourth Amendment “with regard to the appropriate remedy for a violation of the knock-and-announce principle as codified in R.C. 2935.12.” It then held “that once a warrant has been issued, the exclusionary rule is not the appropriate remedy under Article I, Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution for a violation of R.C. 2935.12.” See: Ohio v. Bembry, 2017-Ohio-8114 (2017). 

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