This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Mark Douglas Gordh,
Filed January 31, 2000
Ramsey County District Court
File No. K8982030
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Darrell C. Hill, Assistant County Attorney, 50 W. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 315, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent)
Earl P. Gray, Mark D. Nyvold, 1030 Minnesota Building, 46 E. 4th Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge, Short, Judge, and Willis, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Mark Douglas Gordh appeals from his conviction of a controlled substance crime, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.021, subd. 1(1) (Supp. 1997). Gordh argues that because the officers who executed a search warrant on his home failed to announce that they had a search warrant until they were across the threshold of his residence, the search violated his constitutional right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. We affirm.
In May 1998, a Ramsey County deputy sheriff obtained a search warrant for illicit drugs and related items on Gordh’s person and in his Shoreview residence. The warrant did not authorize nighttime or unannounced entry.
Law-enforcement officers executed the warrant at approximately 11:30 a.m. on May 27, 1998. The interior wooden door of Gordh’s residence was open; the aluminum screen door was closed but unlocked. The deputy and others knocked and announced "sheriff’s department," waited 15 seconds, heard no sounds from inside and saw no one in the room facing the door, and then entered Gordh’s residence shouting "police," "sheriff’s department," and "search warrant" when they were just across the threshold of the residence. Gordh testified that he did not hear the officers until they were inside the residence. A search of Gordh’s bedroom disclosed 47.5 grams of cocaine.
Gordh moved to suppress the evidence, and the district court denied his motion. The district court tried Gordh on stipulated facts and found him guilty of first-degree sale of cocaine, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.021, subd. 1(1) (Supp. 1997). Gordh now appeals.
D E C I S I O N
Gordh argues that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress because the failure of the deputies executing the search warrant to announce their authority and purpose before entering Gordh’s residence, despite their announcement of their official status as members of the "sheriff’s department," renders the search unconstitutional. Because the facts of this case are not in dispute, we will review de novo the district court’s denial of Gordh’s motion to suppress. State v. Othoudt, 482 N.W.2d 218, 221 (Minn. 1992).
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." The "commonlaw principle of announcement * * * is an element of the reasonableness inquiry under the Fourth Amendment." Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U.S. 927, 934, 115 S. Ct. 1914, 1918 (1995). The announcement principle is equally applicable to the execution of arrest warrants or search warrants. Wilson, 514 U.S. at 936, 115 S. Ct. at 1919; State v. Prudhomme, 287 N.W.2d 386, 388 (Minn. 1979); State v. Whelan, 350 N.W.2d 414, 416 (Minn. App. 1984). The announcement principle, commonly known as the "knock-and-announce" rule, has four components: before crossing the threshold to execute a search warrant officers must (1) knock; (2) identify themselves as law-enforcement officers; (3) announce their authority and purpose ("search warrant"); and (4) be granted admittance, refused admittance, or be constructively refused admittance because they have waited without response from an occupant for a reasonable period of time. See Wilson, 514 U.S. at 931-36, 115 S. Ct. at 1916-19; Richards v. Wisconsin, 520 U.S. 385, 387, 117 S. Ct. 1416, 1418 (1997); United States v. Beckford, 962 F. Supp. 767, 774 ( E.D. Va. 1997); State v. Linder, 291 Minn. 217, 219, 190 N.W.2d 91, 93 (1971).
But officers may execute a search warrant without complying with the announcement principle when exigent circumstances arise at the threshold. See, e.g., Richards, 520 U.S. at 395, 117 S. Ct. at 1422; State v. Lien, 265 N.W.2d 833, 839 (Minn. 1978). Exigent circumstances include facts at the threshold that indicate that an unannounced entry is necessary to execute the warrant safely, that an announcement would be a useless gesture because the occupants know of the authority and purpose of the police, or that persons within the residence were known to be attempting to destroy evidence. See Wilson, 514 U.S. at 936, 115 S. Ct. at 1919; Prudhomme, 287 N.W.2d at 388; Lien, 265 N.W.2d at 839; Linder, 291 Minn. at 221, 190 N.W.2d at 94.
Here, the district court did not find any applicable exigent circumstances and the state conceded at oral argument that no exigent circumstances existed at the threshold of Gordh’s residence. We are thus faced with the question of whether, under the particular facts of this case, when officers execute a valid search warrant, knock repeatedly, identify themselves as law enforcement, and wait a reasonable time before entry, the search is rendered unconstitutional by the fact that the officers failed to announce their authority and purpose until they were just across the threshold. We answer in the negative.
Because the Fourth Amendment contains a flexible requirement that all searches and seizures be reasonable, failure of an officer to comply fully with the announcement principle before entering a residence to conduct an otherwise lawful search is merely one component to consider in assessing reasonableness. Bodine v. Warwick, 72 F.3d 393, 398 (3rd Cir. 1995); see Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 818, 116 S. Ct. 1769, 1776 (1996) (discussing unannounced entry into a home as one instance where "‘balancing’ analysis" is required); United States v. Appelquist, 145 F.3d 976, 979 (8th Cir. 1998) (reviewing the "totality of the circumstances" to determine reasonableness). "[I]n principle every Fourth Amendment case, since it turns upon a ‘reasonableness’ determination, involves a balancing of all relevant factors." Whren, 517 U.S. at 817, 116 S. Ct. at 1776.
In State v. Prudhomme, the Minnesota supreme court analyzed, in part, a failure to comply with the announcement principle by reviewing whether the actions of the officers "seriously offend[ed] any of the purposes" served by the announcement principle. 287 N.W.2d at 389.
These purposes include, (a) preventing the unnecessary destruction of the property of the person whose dwelling is entered, (b) protecting innocent people by minimizing the chances of entry of the wrong premises by mistake, (c) protecting people against unnecessary shock or embarrassment connected with unannounced entries, and (d) decreasing the potential for a violent response by the occupant which might not otherwise occur if the occupant knows that the people seeking entry are police who have a warrant.
Id. Here, the failure of the officers to announce their authority and purpose until they crossed the threshold has no impact on the relevant factors presented in Prudhomme. The officers did not have to enter by using a battering ram or by kicking in a door; they merely opened a screen door after there was no response to their shouting. And because the officers knocked and identified themselves loudly enough to be heard by an officer stationed on the opposite side of the residence, their failure to exclaim "search warrant" until they were just inside Gordh’s residence was inconsequential to the chance that they might be at the wrong location, precluded any shock or embarrassment that could potentially arise from an unannounced entry, and eliminated the chance for any justifiable violent response. We thus conclude that the failure of the officers to announce their authority and purpose until they had crossed the threshold of Gordh’s residence does not seriously offend the purposes served by the announcement principle.
The facts here mirror those before the Eighth Circuit in United States v. Appelquist, 145 F.3d at 976. There, officers knocked on Appelquist’s door and shouted "police officer" and "sheriff’s department" without announcing their authority and purpose to execute a search warrant. Id. at 978. After receiving no response, the officers entered the residence, again identified themselves as law-enforcement officials, and announced their authority and purpose by calling out "search warrant." Id. No exigent circumstances excused the officers’ failure to announce their authority and purpose before entering the residence. See id. at 978-79. But the Eighth Circuit stated that after "[v]iewing the totality of the circumstances in this case, we conclude that the officers’ failure to announce their purpose until they were in Appelquist’s hallway does not render the subsequent search and seizure constitutionally unreasonable." Id. at 979; c.f. United States v. Finch, 998 F.2d 349, 354 (6th Cir. 1993) (stating that announcing identification and waiting for refusal "are far more constitutionally significant" than announcing authority and purpose).
Here, as in Appelquist, the officers executed a valid search warrant, knocked repeatedly, identified themselves as law-enforcement officers, waited a reasonable time before entry, and announced "search warrant" promptly once inside the residence. The district court concluded that "under the totality of the circumstances" the officers’ failure to announce "search warrant" before crossing the threshold did not render the search unreasonable. Upon review of the facts before us and the relevant factors set forth in Prudhomme, and given the officers’ compliance with all other components of the announcement principle, we agree.
It is clear that a better practice would have been for the officers to announce their authority and purpose by calling out "search warrant" before entering Gordh’s residence. But under the circumstances of this case, we find applicable the statement made by the supreme court in Linder:
The failure of the police officers here to say a few more words— ‘with a search warrant’ —is not to be applauded nor approved. However, we do not believe that the exclusionary rule’s deterrent effect outweighs the possibility of letting guilty criminals go free because of an inadvertent police error.
291 Minn. at 220, 190 N.W.2d at 93.
The failure of the officers to announce their authority and purpose until they crossed the threshold of Gordh’s residence does not render the search unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. We thus affirm the judgment of the district court.