The Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- State Narcotics Bureau chief Frank Melton says
that under normal circumstances his agents allow at least a couple of
minutes for someone to answer their door before a forced entry is
made to serve a warrant.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that after knocking, police
don't have to wait longer than 20 seconds before breaking into the
home of a drug suspect.
The unanimous ruling came in a case involving a man who said he
needed more time to get from the shower to the door.
LaShawn Banks emerged soapy and naked to find masked, heavily armed
officers searching for drugs in his Las Vegas apartment in 1998. His
case gave the court its first opportunity to say how long police must
wait before breaking into a home to serve a warrant.
The Supreme Court didn't set a specific standard but said the brief
delay in the Banks case was long enough. Any more time would give
drug suspects an opportunity to flush evidence down the toilet.
"Unless we are going into a situation where we know firearms are
involved -- that individuals in the house are armed -- normally we
will give them in excess of two minutes," Melton said Wednesday.
"You have to assume that that amount of time is needed if a person
isn't dressed, is in the rear of the house or didn't hear us," Melton
said. "You have to give them an opportunity to answer."
"But when we announce ourselves as being state police, we don't want
someone to go get a firearm or ... to begin to flush drugs down the
commode," he said. "We have had that happen to us quite a bit."
One way to get around the flushing of drugs is to cut off the
residence's water supply from the outside before the knock is made,
But in some cases, forcing the door immediately is the only option.
Melton said he agents recently served a murder warrant at the Jackson
residence of Terrell Donelson, an alleged member of the Wood Street
gang, and, after knocking, Donelson's girlfriend started to open the
Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
"It was a glass door and in full view, Terrell came down some stairs
and told her, `don't open the damn door.' Then he ran up the stairs.
At that point, we took the door down because we didn't know what he
was going up to get. We had to assume it might be a weapon."