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Home / Case Digests / 00-3090 U. S. v. Espinoza

00-3090 U. S. v. Espinoza

“Given Espinoza’s resistive physical response to the officers’ attempt to gain forcible entry into his home (holding the door shut to prevent the officers from entering) we fail to see how the officers’ alleged failure to wait an objectively reasonable amount of time before forcing the doors caused any harm to Espinoza’s interests (whether in privacy or property) protected by the knock and announce requirement. If the officers had waited thirty seconds, or a minute, or two minutes, before attempting forced entry, would Espinoza have complied with the law and allowed officers to peaceably enter, thereby saving the destruction of his door? The answer is ‘no.’ If Espinoza had any intention of allowing the officers into his residence and saving the destruction of the door, common sense dictates that he would have done so after hearing the first knock and announcement and the sounds of the officers crashing through the outer (first) door with the battering ram – he would not have attempted to hold the inner (second) door shut. The record leads us to conclude that if the officers had waited longer before forcing the door, the only ‘preparation’ that would have been undertaken by Espinoza was the erection of a more formidable barricade using furniture or whatever else was readily available. Espinoza’s decision to take affirmative action to prevent the officers’ entry convinces us that had the officers waited five seconds, sixty seconds, or more, Espinoza would have not only refused them admittance, but would have attempted to prevent their entry.”

“We hold that the evidence obtained during the search of Espinoza’s residence should not be excluded on Fourth Amendment grounds because the remedy of exclusion is a disproportionately severe sanction for the officers’ alleged misconduct.”

Reversed and remanded.

DISSENTING OPINION: Wood, J. “The majority’s reasoning holds together only if we are willing to consider at the suppression stage evidence that cannot be considered at the violation stage. In light of the evidence that Espinoza was later found to be in possession of a substantial quantity of drugs, the majority argues that his attempt to block the interior door must as a matter of law be regarded as proof that he would not have opened the front door even if he had been given a constitutionally sufficient opportunity to do so. If, on the other hand, we disregard the after-acquired evidence, there is no reason to think Espinoza’s efforts to block the interior door were anything other than a natural defensive response to hearing someone crash through his front door in the middle of the night and then start to try to break down the interior door. Viewed from this perspective, Espinoza’s actions tell us little about what he would have done had he been given proper notice of the police’s desire to gain entry through the front door.”

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Adelman, J., Coffey, J.

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