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U.S. Supreme Court Violation of Knock and Announce Rule Does Not Require Exclusion of Evidence

Jack Ryan

In Hudson v. Michigan, the United States Supreme Court considered how a violation of the knock and announce rule should impact the admissibility of evidence in a criminal prosecution.

The facts in Hudson involve the execution of a search warrant by the Detroit Police Department. The police obtained a warrant to search Booker Hudson’s residence for drugs and weapons. Upon arrival at the scene, the officers knocked and announced their presence. The officers admittedly waited only 3-5 seconds before turning the knob of the unlocked door to the residence. The officers made entry. They recovered large quantities of drugs, including some on Hudson’s person, as well as a gun that was lodged between cushions where Hudson had been seated. Hudson challenged the admissibility of the gun and the drugs as evidence in his criminal trial arguing that the officers had violated the knock and announce rule by waiting only 3-5 seconds before entering.

In a review of the case, the United States Supreme Court noted that the prosecutors stipulated that officers had violated the knock and announce rule by waiting only 3-5 seconds, thus the Court was not deciding whether waiting this short time was reasonable or unreasonable.

In determining that the evidence was admissible under the 4th Amendment, the Court outlined the reasons behind the requirement of knocking and announcing:

“One of those interests is the protection of human life and limb, because an unannounced entry may provoke violence in supposed self-defense by the surprised resident… Another interest is the protection of property. Breaking a house (as the old cases typically put it) absent an announcement would penalize someone who ‘did not know of the process, of which, if he had notice, it is to be presumed that he would obey it’…The knock-and-announce rule gives individuals ‘the opportunity to comply with the law and to avoid the destruction of property occasioned by a forcible entry.’ And thirdly, the knock-and-announce rule protects those elements of privacy and dignity that can be destroyed by a sudden entrance. It gives residents the ‘opportunity to prepare themselves for’ the entry of the police… ‘The brief interlude between announcement and entry with a warrant may be the opportunity that an individual has to pull on clothes or get out of bed.’ In other words, it assures the opportunity to collect oneself before answering the door…What the knock-and-announce rule has never protected, however, 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 Court also reiterated that the purpose behind the exclusionary was to deter police misconduct and determined that this purpose would not be fulfilled by applying the rule to a violation of the knock and announce requirement.

Finally, the Court noted that law enforcement personnel would still be subject to a civil rights lawsuit as well as internal discipline for their failure to comply with the knock and announce rule. Citing to Police Misconduct Law and Litigation the Court noted that attorneys and citizens have a greater willingness and ability to sue law enforcement officers for civil rights violations. As a result, the Court concluded that suppression of evidence was an improper remedy for a violation of the knock and announce rules.

Key Points

1. Evidence that is seized as the result of a valid search warrant but where the knock and announce rules have been violated will not be excluded as evidence in the criminal prosecution.

2. Officers who violate the knock and announce rules are subject to a civil suit for violation of civil rights as well as internal discipline within their agency.

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