January 27, 2014
Every day we read about SWAT teams serving arrest warrants or search warrants at people’s homes, using no-knock raids in the middle of the night. Many of these police home invasions go wrong, with innocent people being shot, and sometimes killed, just because they were trying to defend themselves. Even criminals have learned to claim that they are the police while breaking into homes, to discourage resistance.
The Quinn v. Texas case now presents the significant legal issue of whether police are justified in using no-knock home invasions simply because they know the occupants own a firearm. On January 27, 2014, Gun Owners Foundation helped file an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Quinn v. Texas, in support of the grant of a petition for certiorari, to obtain a review of this issue.http://www.supremecourt.gov/Search.aspx?FileName=/docketfiles/13-765.htm
John Quinn was asleep in his bed when Texas police broke down his door in the middle of the night, and shot him when he reached for a weapon, thinking his home was being invaded. The police were there to serve a search warrant for his son, Brian, who they suspected of dealing drugs.
The only justification for the no-knock raid that police gave was that John Quinn owned a firearm. The police claimed that firearms ownership was enough to present a danger to law enforcement, even though they knew John Quinn had a concealed carry permit — meaning the state of Texas had pronounced him to be a safe, law-abiding citizen.
It is a foundational Fourth Amendment principle that, when executing a warrant, the police must knock and announce their presence and purpose, and allow a homeowner the time to let them in. This principle is designed to preserve a person’s life (so he is not accidentally shot), his property (his front door), and his dignity (if, for example, he is in the shower). Only if the police have “exigent circumstances” has the Supreme Court permitted entry without knocking.
Our amicus brief pointed out that the police dispensed with the Fourth Amendment and executed a no-knock raid for the sole reason that Quinn had chosen to exercise his Second Amendment rights to keep a firearm in his home for self-defense.
The Texas court held that it did not matter if the police violated Quinn’s rights with the no knock raid, since they would have searched his home and found drugs anyway. Our brief answers that in doing so, the Texas court essentially created a per se rule that, any time the police have a warrant, they can dispense with the Fourth Amendment, knowing that a court will later rule they “would have found it anyway.”
Finally, our brief (in conjunction with other plaintiffs) noted the Court’s recent holding in U.S. v. Jones (a 2012 Supreme Court case in which we filed two briefs), where the Court returned to the private property roots of the Fourth Amendment, instead of the a textual “reasonable expectation of privacy” tests that had been invented in the 1960's. The brief argued that, after Jones, the Court needs to re-examine no-knock raids from a property — rather than a privacy — perspective.
Our society is one where no-knock raids — supposedly the exception — have become the rule, due to aggressive, militaristic policing, and permissive courts. Often, innocent people, and even family pets defending their homes are caught up in the crossfire when police make mistakes. Having a rule where the police can break down a person’s front door simply because he may keep a firearm inside is simply intolerable.