Is Police Barging Into Person's Home Without Knocking Legal ?
In Benefield v. State, 160 So. 2d 706 (Fla. 1964), the Court held that noncompliance with the statutory knock-and-announce requirement vitiated the ensuing arrest and required suppression of the evidence obtained as a result of the arrest--absent any of the recognized exigencies justifying noncompliance. 160 So. 2d at 710.
There, the Court noted that "the officers totally ignored every requirement of the law." Id. at 709.
"They barged into petitioner's home without knocking or giving any notice whatever of their presence; they did not have a search warrant or warrant to arrest anyone; they ransacked petitioner's home without the least semblance of any showing of authority." Id.
The Court explained:
It is true that the act is ambiguous and poorly drawn, but a reasonable interpretation of it runs like this: When an officer is authorized to make an arrest in any building, he should first approach the entrance to the building.
He should then knock on the door and announce his name and authority, sheriff, deputy sheriff, policeman or other legal authority and what his purpose is in being there.
If he is admitted and has a warrant, he may proceed to serve it.
He is not authorized to be there to make an arrest unless he has a warrant or is authorized to arrest for a felony without a warrant.
If he is refused admission and is armed with a warrant or has authority to arrest for a felony without a warrant, he may then break open a door or window to gain admission to the building and make the arrest.
If the building happens to be one's home, these requirements should be strictly observed. Id.
The Court then concluded:
As we interpret the common law authorities in relation to 901.19(1), Florida Statutes, F.S.A., we conclude that even if probable cause exists for the arrest of a person, our statute is violated by an unannounced intrusion in the form of a breaking and entering any building, including a private home, except:
(1) where the person within already knows of the officer's authority and purpose;
(2) where the officers are justified in the belief that the persons within are in imminent peril of bodily harm;
(3) if the officer's peril would have been increased had he demanded entrance and stated the purpose;
(4) where those within made aware of the presence of someone outside are then engaged in activities which justify the officers in the belief that an escape or destruction of evidence is being attempted. . . .
. . . Under the peculiar facts of this case, we are convinced that 901.19(1), Florida Statutes, F.S.A., was violated and that its violation is not excused by any of the exceptions discussed herein and for this reason the fruits of the search being the product of an unlawful arrest and a search incident thereto, should have been excluded by the trial court upon proper motion. Id. at 710-11.
In reaching this conclusion, the Court noted that "section 901.19, Florida Statutes, . . . appears to represent a codification of the English common law which recognized the fundamental sanctity of one's home yet nevertheless provides that an arresting office 'may break open doors, if the party refused upon demand to open them.' " Id. at 710 (citing 1 Hale's Pleas of the Crown 583 (1763)).
As the Court explained:
Entering one's home without legal authority and neglect to give the occupants notice have been condemned by the law and the common custom of this country and England from time immemorial.
It was condemned by the yearbooks of Edward IV, before the discovery of this country by Columbus...
This sentiment has moulded our concept of the home as one's castle as well as the law to protect it. the law forbids the law enforcement officers of the state or the United States to enter before knocking at the door, giving his name and the purpose of his call.
There is nothing more terrifying to the occupants than to be suddenly confronted in the privacy of their home by a police officer decorated with guns and the insignia of his office.
This is why the law protects its entrance so rigidly. Id. at 709.