The demise of the knock-and-announce rule: Hudson v. Michigan.

AuthorJackson, Monica Ball


In Hudson v. Michigan, the Supreme Court held that the exclusionary rule does not necessarily apply to evidence seized pursuant to a search warrant executed in violation of the knock-and-announce requirement. (1) Briefly, government agents must announce their authority before entering a dwelling to execute a search warrant. (2) This holding is contrary to the Court's previous rulings applying the exclusionary rule in cases involving violations of the knock-and-announce requirement absent exigent circumstances. (3)

The Court's ruling in Hudson raises two critical issues. First, the decision raises the issue of whether the exclusion of evidence serves the interests protected by the Fourth Amendment. Second, the decision raises the question of whether the deterrence benefits of the exclusionary rule outweigh the related social costs.

The Hudson decision leads to the proper result. Based on the facts of the case, the Court was correct in not excluding the evidence; however, the reasoning was flawed. The dissent correctly asserted that the Court should have followed precedent and evaluated the facts in light of the exigent circumstance exception to the knock-and-announce rule.

The first section of this Note discusses the legal background including the origin of the knock-and-announce rule, the exclusionary rule, and the Supreme Court's application of the exclusionary rule to knock-and-announce violations. The second section states the relevant facts, the procedural posture, and the Court's holding and reasoning. The third section analyzes the case including an examination of whether the exclusionary rule serves the interests protected by the Fourth Amendment, an examination of whether the deterrence benefits of the exclusionary rule outweigh the related social costs, and a discussion of the impact of Hudson. The final section is a summary of the issues and the conclusion.


  1. The Origin of the Common Law Knock-and-Announce Rule

    The Fourth Amendment protects the constitutional right of the people to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. (4) The knock-and-announce rule is one of several means intended to protect this right. (5) The United States Code codifies the knock-and-announce rule:

    The officer may break open any outer or inner door or window of a house, or any part of a house, or anything therein, to execute a search warrant, if, after notice of his authority and purpose, he is refused admittance or when necessary to liberate himself or a person aiding him in the execution of the warrant. (6) The knock-and-announce rule dates back to English common law (7) which recognized that "when the King is party, the sheriff (if the doors be not open) may break the party's house, either to arrest him, or to do other execution of the K[ing]'s process, if otherwise he cannot enter." (8) The common law courts qualified this rule by requiring the sheriff to announce the reason for his presence and to request entry before breaking the door to the party's house. (9) The common law operated under the assumption that the party would cooperate if given the opportunity. (10)

    Initially, the knock-and-announce principle did not extend to felony arrests. (11) "The full scope of the application of the rule in criminal cases ... was never judicially settled." (12) Over time, courts gradually applied the principle to felony cases; however, they recognized that this rule would necessarily give way to "contrary considerations" under certain circumstances. (13) Against this backdrop, the knock-and-announce rule became a fixture of early American law. (14)

  2. The Exclusionary Rule

    The exclusionary rule is a means of enforcing the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment. (15) The rule prohibits the introduction of evidence seized during an illegal search or obtained as the indirect result of an illegal search. (16) Courts exclude evidence "up to the point at which the connection with the unlawful search becomes so attenuated as to dissipate the taint." (17) The Supreme Court first excluded evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment in Boyd v. United States. (18) In Boyd, the Court equated a compulsory production of private papers to a search and seizure. (19) The Court stated that such a compulsion forces a man to be a witness against himself in violation of the Fifth Amendment and is an unreasonable search within the Fourth Amendment. (20) The Court held that the notice to produce was unconstitutional and void, and the admission of the documents into evidence was erroneous. (21) Then in Weeks v. United States, the Court excluded evidence seized during an unlawful search. (22) The Court held that prejudicial error was committed by admitting the evidence. (23)

    The primary purpose of the exclusionary rule is to deter future police misconduct and "thereby effectuate the guarantee of the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures." (24) However, the rule only applies where the remedial objectives of the rule are the most efficiently served. (25) The remedial objectives are strongest when the government actor's unlawful conduct subjects the victim of the illegal search and seizure to criminal sanctions. (26) The Fourth Amendment places the courts and government officials under limitations and restraints in the exercise of their authority to secure the people against unreasonable searches and seizures executed under the pretext of law. (27) The exclusionary rule ensures that efforts to punish the guilty are not "aided by the sacrifice of ... principles established b[y] years of endeavor and suffering which have resulted in their embodiment in the fundamental law of the land." (28)

    Initially, the exclusionary rule was limited in application to the federal government and its agencies. (29) In Wolf v. Colorado, the Supreme Court held that a state violation of the fundamental right to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures is enforceable through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (30) The Court, however, ultimately decided not to impose the exclusionary rule on the states as an essential ingredient of Fourth Amendment rights. (31) This decision came because almost two-thirds of the states were opposed to the exclusionary rule, and the Court could not ignore the view of the states that the occurrence of such conduct by the police was too slight to require a deterrent remedy. (32)

    After Wolf, state courts continued to use evidence seized by federal officers in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and federal courts continued to use similarly seized evidence by state agents. (33) In 1960, the Supreme Court abandoned the silver platter doctrine, which allowed federal courts to use evidence seized by state agents in violation of the Fourth Amendment. (34) One year later, in Mapp v. Ohio, the Court held that evidence seized during searches and seizures that violate the Constitution is not admissible in a state court. (35)

  3. The Supreme Court's Application of the Exclusionary Rule to Knock-and-Announce Violations

    The following cases illustrate the development of relevant case law and the Supreme Court's willingness to apply the exclusionary rule to knock-and-announce violations. The decisions demonstrate the Court's progression from simply excluding evidence seized in violation of the knock-and-announce rule to weighing the need for exclusion against the interests of government actors. In Miller v. United States, the Court laid the initial foundation for excluding evidence seized in violation of the knock-and-announce rule. (36) Then, in Wilson v. Arkansas, the Court acknowledged that law enforcement interests may justify an unannounced entry but opted to "leave to the lower courts the task of determining the circumstances under which an unannounced entry is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment." (37) Next, in Richards v. Wisconsin, the Court set forth the exceptions that would suspend the knock-and-announce requirement. (38) Finally, in United States v. Ramirez, the Court held that the United States Code codified the exceptions to the knock-and-announce requirement. (39)

    1. Miller v. United States--The Beginning

      In Miller v. United States, the Supreme Court held that the entry of police in violation of the knock-and-announce requirement results in an unlawful arrest and warrants the exclusion of the evidence seized. (40) The Court noted the development of the common-law knock-and-announce requirement and provided the basis for excluding evidence seized in violation of the requirement. (41) Further, the Court stated that the requirement does not warrant grudging application because it is rooted in our heritage. (42)

      In Miller, police arranged for a controlled buy of heroin from Miller after a drug dealer identified him as a distributor of narcotics. (43) After a successful buy, federal agents went to Miller's apartment to arrest him. (44) When Miller asked who they were, an agent "replied in a low voice, 'Police.'" (45) With the door chain attached, Miller opened the door and asked why the agents were there. (46) Before the agents could inform Miller of their purpose, Miller attempted to shut the door. (47) In response, the agents broke the chained door and arrested Miller. (48)

      The Court noted that the knock-and-announce rule requires officers to give notice by making an announcement of their purpose for demanding entry. (49) The Court noted that the burden on police of adhering to the knock-and-announce requirement is slight. (50) Moreover, the Court stated that the evidence seized in a search does not make the search legal. (51) Rather, the Court espoused that the legality of a search is determined when it begins, and the success of the search does not alter its character. (52)

      The Government argued that Miller knew the police were there to arrest him because Miller resisted their entry into his apartment after agents identified themselves as...

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