386 F.3d 753 (6th Cir. 2004), 02-4261, United States v. Smith

Docket Nº:02-4261.
Citation:386 F.3d 753
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Aaron J. SMITH, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:October 19, 2004
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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386 F.3d 753 (6th Cir. 2004)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Aaron J. SMITH, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 02-4261.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

October 19, 2004

Argued: Feb. 3, 2004.

Rehearing Denied Nov. 17, 2004.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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David A. Elden, Los Angeles, California, for Appellant.

Robert Brichler, United States Attorney, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellee.


David A. Elden, Los Angeles, California, for Appellant.

Robert Brichler, United States Attorney, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellee.

Before: DAUGHTREY and COLE, Circuit Judges; POLSTER, District Judge. [*]

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POLSTER, District Judge.

Defendant-Appellant, Aaron J. Smith ("Smith"), entered a conditional plea of guilty to Count 1 of the Indictment, charging him with possession with the intent to distribute cocaine, a controlled substance, in excess of five kilograms, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a) (1) and 21 U.S.C. § 841(b) (1) (A) (ii). Smith appeals the district court's order denying his motion to suppress evidence on the basis that the officers violated the knock-and-announce requirement derived from the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We AFFIRM the district court's order denying Smith's motion to suppress the evidence, albeit through different reasoning then that employed by the district court.


A. Factual background

On January 2, 2002, David Lewis, a Norwood City police detective, filed an affidavit and request for a warrant to search the residence at 7106 Virginia Avenue in Deer Park, Ohio. The affidavit indicated that: 1) an informant had reported that a large shipment of cocaine arrived at 7106 Virginia Avenue; 2) the cocaine had been hidden in a special concealed compartment in a silver Chevrolet Lumina parked in the detached garage; 3) about five people were inside the residence, including a member of a local outlaw biker organization, Elmer Griffith, who had prior convictions for drugs and weapons offenses; and 4) there were several shotguns and handguns at the home. 1 After vouching for the reliability of the informant, the affiant provided in part:

Affiant further says that there is urgent necessity that the search be conducted in the nighttime to prevent the loss of any evidence and to use the cloak of darkness for officer safety. The occupants [to wit, Elmer Griffith] are believed to be armed and dangerous. A "no-knock" provision is requested for the safety of the officers making entry to secure this location.

Id. Based upon this information, a Hamilton County municipal court judge issued a search warrant allowing Detective Lewis to search the home, the detached garage, and vehicles located at 7106 Virginia Avenue. The warrant itself states in part:

Whereas, there has been filed with me an affidavit, a copy of which is attached, hereto and incorporated herein, these are therefore, to command you in the name of the State of Ohio, with the necessary and proper assistance, to enter, in the night 2 time, into the residence ... the detached garage ... and all vehicles located within said garage and on the premises.

The judge did not reference the no-knock request in the warrant. 3

In executing the warrant, the law enforcement team used a ram to break down the door before shouting: "Police. Search warrant," and then set off a diversionary device to avert any resistance. When Smith ran out of a side door, an officer apprehended him in the side yard and advised him of his constitutional rights. The law enforcement team secured the residence and then conducted their search

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of the residence. Nothing of consequence was uncovered. During this time, an officer told Smith that they knew about the cocaine in the concealed compartment in Smith's Chevrolet Lumina located in the garage and that they were going to get the cocaine with or without his help. The officer further explained that if they did not get Smith's cooperation they would cut, with a torch, into any area of the car they thought might contain a concealed compartment. Smith informed the officer that the keys to the Chevrolet Lumina vehicle parked in the garage were in his pants pocket. An officer retrieved the keys, entered the open garage 4 and, with Smith's instructions, accessed the concealed compartment behind the rear seat. The officers' search of the concealed compartment in the vehicle yielded approximately 37 kilograms of cocaine [about 80 pounds].

B. Procedural background

Smith was indicted and charged with possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a) (1) and 21 U.S.C. § 841(b) (1) (A) (ii). He filed a motion to suppress statements or assistance he offered to law enforcement officials, alleging that he was not given his Miranda warnings and that the statements or assistance resulted from threats, coercion, and intimidation. During the suppression hearing, Smith argued that since the entry of the law enforcement team violated the knock-and-announce rule and the warrant did not authorize a no-knock entry, the evidence obtained during the search should be suppressed. The district court denied the motion, finding that: 1) based on the custom of the community, Detective Lewis had a good faith belief that the officers were not required to knock and announce; 2) a reasonable judge would have agreed to the necessity of a no-knock warrant; 3) Smith was informed of his Miranda rights; 5 4) Smith's statements and assistance were voluntary; and 5) the cocaine would have inevitably been discovered.

Smith subsequently entered a plea of guilty, reserving for appeal the issues raised in his suppression motion, and was sentenced to 70 months imprisonment. On appeal, Smith claims that the district court erred in failing to suppress the evidence because the officers' failure to knock and announce before entering the residence renders the fruits of their search inadmissible. Smith has not appealed the district court's rulings that he was given his Miranda warnings in a timely fashion and that his statements and assistance were voluntary.


A. Standard of review

In reviewing a trial judge's ruling on a motion to suppress, we review

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factual findings for clear error and review legal determinations de novo. United States v. Williams, 224 F.3d 530, 532 (6th Cir. 2000), cert. denied, Williams v. United States, 531 U.S. 1095, 121 S.Ct. 821, 148 L.Ed.2d 704 (2001). In reviewing the district court's decision, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the government. United States v. Walker, 181 F.3d 774, 776 (6th Cir. 1999). We will overturn the district court's factual findings, only if we have the "definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. Worley, 193 F.3d 380, 384 (6th Cir. 1999).

B. Knock and Announce Rule

The requirement that law enforcement officers executing a search warrant at a person's home first knock and identify themselves, state their purpose for demanding entry, and allow the occupants time to open the door before forcibly entering has been established by the Supreme Court. See Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U.S. 927, 115 S.Ct. 1914, 131 L.Ed.2d 976 (1995). The knock-and-announce rule: 1) reduces "the potential for violence to both the police officers and the occupants of the house into which entry is sought;" 2) curbs "the needless destruction of private property;" and 3) protects "the individual's right to privacy in his or her house." United States v. Dice, 200 F.3d 978, 982 (6th Cir. 2000) (citing United States v. Bates, 84 F.3d 790, 794 (6th Cir. 1996)). To protect these interests, we have held that the execution of a warrant in violation of the knock-and-announce rule renders any evidence seized under the warrant inadmissible. Dice, 200 F.3d at 982 (citing Bates, 84 F.3d at 795). See also Miller v. United States, 357 U.S. 301, 313-14, 78 S.Ct. 1190, 2 L.Ed.2d 1332 (1958) (holding that because "the...

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