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United States v. Ramirez


Shelby was a dangerous, escaped convict. An ATF agent learned from a reliable confidential informant that Shelby was probably staying at the defendant’s home, also a convicted felon. Based on this information, Deputy U.S. Marshals obtained a search warrant and permission to enter the premises without complying with 18 U.S.C. § 3109 from a magistrate. The informant also stated that the defendant might have a stash of weapons in his garage. Early in the morning, the Deputy Marshals used a loud speaker to announce that they had a search warrant. At the same moment one Deputy Marshal broke a window in the garage. He pointed a gun at the opening to discourage a rush for the weapons feared to be inside. The defendant believed people were burglarizing his home and fired a shot into the ceiling of his garage. Moments later, he realized that the persons attempting to enter his home were law enforcement officers and he submitted to their authority. Shelby was not found. However, the officers found weapons in the premises. The defendant was charged with possession of firearms by a felon.


Whether law enforcement officers are held to a heightened standard of scrutiny when they destroy property pursuant to a “no-knock” entry?


No. Law enforcement officers’ entries during the execution of warrants must only be “reasonable.”


All searches must be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. The manner in which the officers entered the premises to conduct the search is subject to review by a court in determining the reasonableness of that search. The Court held that while there is no absolute prohibition against the destruction of property upon entry, it is a factor that should be considered in determining the reasonableness of the search. In the case here, the Court held that the destruction of a single window to provide a deterrent against dangerous individuals that may arm themselves with suspected weapons was reasonable. Therefore, the search met the standards of the Fourth Amendment.


523 U.S. 65, 118 S. Ct. 992 (1998)

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