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Back to Archives | Back to October 2006 Contents 

Chief's Counsel

Violation of Knock-and-Announce Rule Does Not Require Suppression of All Evidence Found in Search

By Tom Van Dorn, Sergeant and Legal Advisor, Phoenix Police Department

he U.S. Supreme Court's June ruling in Hudson v. Michigan makes changes that have some arguing whether this decision will under-mine the exclusionary rule's deterrent effect on police misconduct.1

Facts of the Case
The police obtained a search warrant authorizing a search for drugs and firearms at the home of Booker Hudson. They seized drugs and a loaded gun that was found between the cushion and the armrest of a chair. Hudson subsequently was charged under Michigan law with unlawful possession of drugs and firearms.

When the police executed the warrant, they announced their presence and waited approximately three to five seconds before making their entry. Hudson moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the three-to-five-second wait was unreasonable and violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

The trial court suppressed the evidence, finding that the officers' entry was premature and violated the Fourth Amendment, but the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed, finding that suppression of the evidence was not an appropriate remedy to address a too-short wait before entry. The defendant was convicted and appealed.

U.S. Supreme Court Analysis
The U.S. Supreme Court first reviewed many years of case law (including that arising from the common law) and ultimately agreed with the Michigan Court of Appeals that suppression of evidence seized pursuant to the warrant was not appropriate, even if the officers' entry was premature.

In looking at past decisions, the Supreme Court found three reasons for the knock-and-announce requirement:

  • The "protection of human life and limb, because an unannounced entry may   provoke violence in supposed self-   defense by the surprised resident"

  • The "protection of property"

  • The protection of "those elements of privacy and dignity that can be destroyed by a sudden entrance"

But "what the knock-and-announce rule has never protected," according to the decision, "is one's interest in preventing the government from seeing or taking evidence described in a warrant; since the interests that were violated in this case have nothing to do with the seizure of the evidence, the exclusionary rule is inapplicable."

The Supreme Court found that even if the police entered the home prematurely, the entry was none-the less warranted by judicial order. The nature of such a police error, if it was an error, does not make evidence suppression reasonable. According to the Court, "suppression of evidence . . . has always been our last resort, not our first impulse."

The defendant argued that unless the Supreme Court suppressed the evidence the police would ignore the knock-and-announce rule. The Court rejected this argument because persons who were wronged by police conduct may, and regularly do, pursue civil lawsuits against police under Section 1983. The Supreme Court also pointed to "increasing evidence that police forces across the United States take the constitutional rights of citizens seriously."

Law enforcement personnel executing warrants at homes should continue to observe reasonable waiting periods after knocking and announcing unless the warrant authorizes a no-knock entry, or unless circumstances cause reasonable suspicion that knocking and announcing "presents a threat of physical violence or that evidence would likely be destroyed." A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision found that a wait of 15-20 seconds after announcing was reasonable given the circumstances of that case. 2

If police are aware of reasons for exceptions to the knock-and-announce rule and wait-time requirements, they should consider bringing those reasons to the attention of the judge in sup-port of obtaining a no-knock warrant pursuant to Richards v. Wisconsin. 3

Lastly, law enforcement personnel should check their respective state law to see if more restrictive conditions exist with respect to no-knock entries or wait-time requirements. ■

Author's note: Any analysis, opinions, or recommendations in this column are exclusively the author's and may not represent the views of the Phoenix Police Department.

1 Hudson v. Michigan, 126 S. Ct. 2159 (2006).
2 U.S. v. Banks, 540 U.S. 31, 41 (2003).
3 Richards v. Wisconsin, 520 U.S. 385, 394 (1997).



From The Police Chief, vol. 73, no. 10, October 2006. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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