Updated: 01-07-16
Firearm Laws
Search & Seizure

HUDSON  v. MICHIGAN. United States Supreme Court, June 2006.
126 S. Ct. 2159.

The United States Supreme Court has rendered a decision that may prove to be a severe blow to one of our fundamental 4th Amendment guarantees.  The  “knock and announce” rule that has been a virtual fortress in protecting that inalienable right that “a mans home is his castle” has been bombarded by this decision.  The remedy of “exclusion” has been applied in cases where the failure to “knock and announce” before entering a dwelling resulted in the discovery of  inculpatory evidence. In  Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U.S.927. 115 S. Ct.1914, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that “the 4th Amendment  normally requires law enforcement officers to knock and announce their presence before entering a dwelling.” The Supremes had previously made it clear that the “common law ‘knock and announce’ principle forms a part of the reasonable- ness  inquiry under the 4th Amendment.  Id., at 934, 115 S. Ct.  1914.  As the majority in this case observed,  because Wilson specifically declined to decide whether the exclusionary rule is appropriate for violation of the “knock and announce” rule that question  was squarely before the Court in this case.
The exclusionary principle was first set forth in Weeks v. United States, 231 U.S. 383,34 S.Ct. 341.  In Weeks,  the Court noted that the framers of the constitution, in promulgating a Bill of Rights, sought to secure to the American people those safeguards that were the progeny of those in England to protect against unreasonable searches and seizures  “such as were permitted under the general warrants issued under authority of the government, by which there had been invasions of the home and privacy of the citizens, and the seizure of their private papers  support of charges, real or imaginary, make against them. Such practices had also received sanction under warrants and seizures under the so-called writs of assistance, issued in the American colonies,” quoting from Boyd v. United States. 116 U.S. 616, 6 S.Ct. 524.
The Weeks court further took note of the fact that resistance to these practices had established the principle which was enacted into the fundamental law in the 4th Amendment, that a man’s house is his castle, and not to be invaded by any general authority to search and seize his goods and papers.  The Court quoted  Justice Cooley  in his Constitutional Limitations, pp. 425, 426, wherein he stated: “The maxim that ‘every man’s house is his castle’ is made apart of our constitutional law in the clauses prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures, and always has been looked upon as of high value to the citizen.’”

In the Boyd case, Justice Bradley, ruling on the constitutionality of a forfeiture provision whereby the U.S. Attorney could compel  the production of inculpatory documents belonging to or under the control of a defendant, cited an early English case, Entick v. Carrington, 19 How. St., Tr. 1029,  where Lord Camden, C.J.,  rendered a decision considered one of the landmarks of English liberty. Justice  Bradley said:

                  The principles laid down in this opinion  affect the very essence of
                     Constitutional liberty and security. They .reach farther than
                     the concrete form of the case then before the Court, with its
                     adventitious circumstances;  they apply to all invasions on the
                     part of the government and its employees of the sanctity of a man’s
                     home and the privacies of life. It is not the breaking of  his doors
                     and the rummaging of his drawers that constitute the  essence of the
                     offense,--it is the invasion of this sacred right which underlies and
                     constitutes the essence of Lord Camden’s judgment.

Facts: When police arrived at the defendant’s home with a search warrant they announced their presence, but waited only a short three to five seconds before entering by turning the knob of an unlocked front door. Once inside the police discovered  a large quantity of drugs and a gun lodged between the cushion and armrest of a chair in which the defendant was sitting.
In the trial court the defendant moved to suppress all the inculpatory evidence seized and the court sustained the motion. The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed, and the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal.  Upon conviction, the motion to suppress was renewed, again denied by the Appellate Court, and the Michigan Supreme Court again denied  review. U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Justice Scalia, delivered the majority opinion of the Court, “with respect to Parts I. II and III, in which Roberts, C.J., and Kennedy, Thomas and Alito, J J., joined, and an opinion with respect to part IV, in which Roberts, C.J., and Thomas and Alito, J J.,  joined.  Kennedy, J., filed a separate opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.  The two opinions  concluded that a violation of the “knock and announce” rule does not automatically lead to suppression of the evidence seized in a search (U.S. v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 104 S. Ct. 3405) and that the exclusionary rule must be applicable only “where its deterrence benefits outweigh its ‘substantial social costs,’” citing  Pennsylvania Bd. of Probation and Parole v. Scott, 524 U.S. 357, 363, 118 S. Ct. 2014.
Tracing the historical development of the exclusionary rule as applied to search and seizure  issues, the majority concluded that  “an impermissible manner of entry does not necessarily trigger the exclusionary rule.”. Justice Scalia cited a number of prior Supreme Court decisions, including Wilson, Weeks and Boyd, in tracing the lineage of the “knock and announce” rule back to the 13th century, and then relies on cases that held the exclusionary rule not to apply because the causal connection between the intrusion and the evidence seized was too attenuated, e.g., Segura v. United States,  468  U.S. 796, 815, 104 S.Ct. 3380; United States v. Cecc-olini,  435 U.S. 268, 274,  98 S. Ct. 1054.
Noting that while in this case there was no question that the “knock and  announce” rule was violated . . . “even  if the illegal entry could be characterized  as a but-for cause of discovering  what was inside, we have ‘never held that evidence is the fruit of the poisonous tree simply because it would not have come to light  but for the illegal action of the police.’” [citing Segura, supra].

Then, in response to the defendant/respondent’s  argument that without suppression there would be no deterrence, the majority opines that  alternative civil remedies available to a  party for intrusions can adequately deter  unconstitutional police behavior.

Thus, the majority affirms the decision of the Michigan Court of Appeals reversing the lower court’s granting of  defendant’s motion to suppress.

The dissenting opinion, delivered  by Justice Breyer, with Justices Stevens, Souter and Ginsburg joining, is a scathing  reminder that the suppression of evidence seized from a home following an illegal entry is the strongest  legal incentive to comply with the Constitution’s “knock and announce” requirement, and to deny application of the exclusionary rule is to virtually destroy that basic legal incentive necessary to the protection of  one’s “castle.”

Following are a few of the minority’s comments (with some omissions in the quoted text):

: “Today’s opinion is . . . doubly troubling.  It represents a significant departure from the Court’s precedents. And it weakens, perhaps destroys, much of the practical value of the Constitution’s knock and announce protection.

“In Wilson . . . we wrote that ‘[a]n examination of the common law of search and seizure leaves no doubt that the reasonableness of a search of a dwelling may depend in part on whether law enforcement officers announced their presence and authority prior to entering. [514 U.S. 927, 931].

“ .  .  . Little doubt that the framers of the Fourth Amendment thought that the method of an officer’s entry into a dwelling was among the factors to be considered in assessing the reasonableness of a search or seizure.” Id., at 934, 115 S. Ct. 1914. And we held that the common-law ‘ knock and announce’ principle forms a part of the reasonableness inquiry under the Fourth Amendment. Id., at  929, 115 S.Ct. 1914. Thus, ‘a search or seizure of a dwelling might be constitutionally defective if police officers enter without prior announcement. Id., at 936, 115 S. Ct. 1914 [Other citations omitted].

“. . .  [In] Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S.  616,  6 S. Ct., 524 (1886) . . . decided 128 years  ago, the Court wrote, in frequently quoted language, that the Fourth Amendment’s  prohibitions apply ‘to all invasions on the part of the government and its employees of the sanctity of a man’s home and the privacies of life.  It is not the breaking of his doors, and the rummaging of his drawers, that constitutes the essence of the offense; but it is the invasion of his indefeasible right of personal security, personal liberty and private property.’ Id., at 630,  6 S.Ct. 524 [Emphasis added.]

“. . . [In] Silverthorne v. United States, 251 U.S. 385, 40 S. Ct. 182 . . . [t]he Court held that the Government could not use information obtained during an illegal search to subpoena documents that they illegally viewed during the search. Writing for the Court, Justice Holmes noted that the exclusionary rule ‘does not mean that the facts  {unlawfully} obtained become sacred and inaccessible. If knowledge of them is gained from an independent source they may be proved like any others  . . .’ 251 U.S. at 392,  40 S. Ct. 182.

“ . . . Wolf v. Colorado, 338 U. S.  25, 69 S. Ct. 1359  . . .and Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 81 S. Ct. 1684 . . .[b]oth  . . . considered whether Weeks’ exclusionary rule applies to the State. In Wolf, the Court held it did not. . . .In Mapp, the Court overruled  Wolf. Experience it said, showed that alternative methods of  enforcing the Fourth Amendment’s requirements had failed.  See 367 U.S. at  651-653, 81 S. Ct. 1684.

“. . . [t]he driving legal purpose underlying the exclusionary rule, namely, the deterrence of unlawful government behavior, argues strongly for suppression. See Elkins v. United States, 364 U.S. 206, 217, 80 S. Ct 1437.  . . . Indeed, this Court in Mapp held that the exclusionary rule applies to the States in large part due to its belief that alternative state methods for enforcing the Fourth Amendment’s guarantees had proved ‘worthless and futile.’

“. . . To argue, as the majority does, that new remedies, such  as 42 U.S.C Sec. 1983 actions or better trained police, make suppression unnecessary is to argue that Wolf, not Mapp is now the law.

[ The dissent goes on to further argue against cases the majority relied upon, noting that the purported remoteness or attenuation between the causal connection of the intrusion and the evidence seized is both strained and not supported in the Court’s prior decisions. Weeks, Silverthorne and Mapp are discussed at length, and their holdings, applying the exclusionary rule and requiring suppression of unlawfully obtained evidence, are viewed as essential to and in recognition of the Fourth Amendment promise. Ruling to the contrary, as the majority does in this case, “would make that promise a hollow one.”]

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