As any defense lawyer worth their salt will tell you, police officers need a search warrant if they want to enter your home to search your property. If they enter your home anyway without a search warrant, their actions will likely be deemed unconstitutional in court. This means that anything that results from that search cannot be used against you, and any related charges must be dropped. For example, if the police search your home without a warrant and find an unlicensed firearm or a bag of illicit drugs, they cannot press charges related to these alleged offenses.
With all that said, “no-knock warrants” allow police to sidestep this important constitutional protection in some situations. The very concept of a no-knock warrant is highly controversial and a matter of intense debate throughout the nation. Critics not only point out the unconstitutionality of these actions, but they also highlight the fact that innocent people can be harmed or even killed by police officers who enter homes and assault alleged suspects. There have been many past instances where victims have been shot or suffocated after a no-knock warrant.
What makes this situation even more controversial in Mississippi is the fact that many search warrants mysteriously go missing after the fact. As a recent report pointed out, this makes scrutinizing the legitimacy of no-knock warrants much more difficult than it needs to be.
Can the Police Enter Your Home Without a Warrant?
In most situations, police officers need a warrant before they can enter your home and search your premises. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule – and perhaps the most notable is the so-called “hot pursuit” exception.
The hot pursuit exception allows police officers to enter the homes of suspects if they are in the process of a (you guessed it) hot pursuit. For example, a suspect might have committed a bank robbery before fleeing in a vehicle. The police might chase the vehicle to the suspect’s home, at which point the suspect might jump out of their car and dash into their residence. Instead of simply having to wait at the front door for a search warrant, police may take the initiative and simply force their way inside.
With all that said, the hot pursuit exception is a controversial topic in the United States. In February 2021, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of police throughout the nation, upholding the hot pursuit exception. But the ruling is slightly vague, and one of the key questions is what constitutes a hot pursuit? Can police enter your home if you panic and attempt to flee from a squad car – even though you only have a broken tail light? Does a minor traffic offense allow police officers to disregard your constitutional rights?
Search Warrants are Going Missing in Mississippi
On October 4th, an article by ProPublica highlighted the fact that many search warrants in Mississippi go missing – often right before defendants attempt to challenge the validity of no-knock warrants in court. This article states that one public defender searched far and wide for supporting documentation associated with these warrants – but she could not find them anywhere. Crucially, this documentation was not stored at the courthouse – even though Mississippi’s Supreme Court specifically states that law enforcement officials must return all warrants to the court for storage.
Often, these warrants are stored at police departments, where they can be easily concealed from the public eye. In fact, recent reports show that almost two-thirds of all county-level courts in the state prevent access to search warrants and related documents. This has caused many critics to argue for greater transparency – especially since the concept of no-knock warrants is such a major talking point in the nation today.
Enlist the Help of a Qualified Attorney Today
If you have been searching the Mississippi area for a qualified, experienced criminal defense attorney, look no further than Vic Carmody Jr., P.A. Over the years, we have assisted numerous defendants in the Magnolia State, and we know that in some situations, unconstitutional behavior by police officers can put citizens in serious danger. Citizens not only face the immediate hazard of being fired upon or assaulted by officers, but they also run the risk of being charged with serious crimes. In order to fight for your constitutional rights and avoid unnecessary penalties, it is important to book your consultation as soon as possible and get started with a solid defense strategy. Reach out today to get the ball rolling.