News Release ~ 04/28/1997

Statement of Judy Clarke President, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers on Supreme Court's "No Knock" Decision

Richards v. Wisconsin Is Victory for Fourth Amendment

Washington, DC (April 28, 1997) -- The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides that Americans shall be secure in their homes and persons from unreasonable searches and seizures. To that end, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers argued on behalf of Steiney Richards in the Supreme Court decision handed down today, Richards v. Wisconsin.

In refusing to uphold Wisconsin's 'blanket exception' in drug cases to the common law requirement that police officers knock and announce their presence before forcibly entering a dwelling, the Supreme Court boldly reaffirms Americans' right to the sanctity of the home. NACDL agrees with the Court that in most cases, the government's interests in breaking into a person's home or other abode without requesting entry do not outweigh the individual privacy interests intruded upon by a no-knock entry. We note also that the attorneys general of 26 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Territory of Guam filed a brief rejecting Wisconsin's rule permitting no-knock entry in any felony drug case.

NACDL agrees with the Court that it is "always dangerous to ground exceptions to constitutional protections in the social norms of a given historical moment." Indeed, the right to be secure in our homes from unreasonable government intrusion is one of our most ancient and cherished, and for which we tore ourselves from England over 200 years ago. 

Although we are disappointed that the Petitioner, Mr. Richards, did not gain the relief he sought and deserved, today's decision is a victory for the Fourth Amendment. On behalf of the entire Association, I would like to congratulate the NACDL attorneys who worked on this case, Henry Schultz, David Karpe, and John Wesley Hall, Jr., who represented Mr. Richards, and Lisa Kemler, Tracy Maclin and Steven Shapiro, who submitted the amicus curiae brief on behalf of NACDL and the ACLU.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's approximately 9,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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