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Friday, December 7, 2007

High court cracks down on invalid nighttime searches

In two 4-3 decisions issued yesterday, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled against admitting evidence obtained by police officers executing invalid nighttime warrants.

In both cases, the officers failed to meet the Minn. Stat. sec. 626.14 requirement that they demonstrate special circumstances existed justifying conducting the search at night. (Absent such a demonstration, the law mandates that warrants be served between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.)

In one case, State v. Jackson, police executed the warrant at 9:25 p.m. When they entered, they found the defendant at her kitchen table with her two teenage children. In the second case, State v. Jordan, police executed the warrant at 6:00 a.m. The defendant was not home, but his 20-year-old daughter, her boyfriend and a guest were in the house asleep.

Both defendants in both cases sought to exclude evidence uncovered by police, arguing that the searches violated their statutory and Fourth Amendment rights.

The Supreme Court found that the violations in the two cases were serious and subverted the basic purpose of sec. 626.14.

In order to reach this determination, the court had to clarify exactly what the purpose of the statute was. “[W]e believe it is appropriate to define the interest protected as freedom from intrusion during a period of nighttime repose,” wrote Justice Paul H. Anderson for the Jackson majority.

The dissenting justices argue the violations were technical and did not warrant exclusion of the evidence seized.

More in next Monday's Minnesota Lawyer.

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