- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to decide how many seconds must tick off the police stopwatch between the time a raiding party with a search warrant knocks on the door and the time it smashes it down.
Among several cases accepted for the term that begins in October, the justices took a Justice Department appeal seeking to reinstate a Las Vegas drug-and-weapons conviction overturned because a SWAT team battered down the door 15-20 seconds after knocking.
Suspect Lashawn L. Banks said he didn't hear the police announce themselves because he was in the shower, from which he emerged naked and soapy to confront masked officers.
While Mr. Banks was failing to respond, officers had used a battering ram to enter his apartment, where they found three guns, a bulletproof vest, crack cocaine and a scale.
"A shorter period of delay is generally reasonable when officers are executing a warrant to search for drugs, where the object of the search is subject to easy destruction and where violent armed responses are common," Solicitor General Theodore Olson said in his petition asking the high court to decide the issue.
He said the anti-police ruling by 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would impose "significant uncertainty" and "needless and potentially dangerous delays" for officers who conduct searches.
The court said the amount of time police must wait depends on whether forcible entry is needed and such other factors as the size of the residence and the nature of the investigation.
Mr. Banks pleaded guilty to possessing a controlled substance with intent to distribute, as well as firearms charges, but reserved his right to appeal the search. He has won that appeal so far, pending the Supreme Court decision, which is likely to be delivered by spring 2004.
In other actions yesterday, the justices:
Refused to consider a challenge to an Indiana law requiring women to receive in-person counseling by a physician, nurse or midwife at least 18 hours before obtaining an abortion. Critics of the law said it imposed an "undue burden" on a woman's access to abortion, but courts have not agreed. Louisiana, Mississippi, Utah and Wisconsin have similar laws.
Agreed to decide whether an employee ousted for drug abuse from his job building missiles is entitled under the Americans With Disabilities Act to apply for rehiring after treatment for cocaine addiction. Defense contractor Raytheon Co. sought the review on a decision by the 9th Circuit reversing summary dismissal of Joel Hernandez's lawsuit.
"The ADA promises nondiscrimination; it does not promise to insulate drug abusers from the consequences of their misconduct," Raytheon lawyers told the Supreme Court.
Turned away a request by former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, 75, to review his extortion and racketeering conviction. Edwards, who also served three terms in Congress; his son, Stephen; and another man were imprisoned for plotting to rig riverboat casino licensing when Edwards was governor.
Refused to consider an unrelated claim by Louisiana casinos that their First Amendment speech rights are denied by a state law that bars them from making political campaign contributions. Seven other states bar campaign contributions by gambling interests.


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