Vol. 1, No. 1 | July 2006

Case Summaries: Hudson v. Michigan

by Brian Cummings
Interim General Counsel
Richmond Police Department

Hudson v. Michigan, U.S. Supreme Court, June 15, 2006

Ruling from the Bench

The U.S. Supreme Court (5-4 vote) held that a violation of the “knock-and-announce” rule does not require the suppression of evidence found in a search pursuant to a valid warrant. 

The Facts

Detroit police obtained a warrant authorizing a search for drugs and firearms at the home of Booker Hudson.  When police arrived to execute the warrant, they announced their presence but waited “three to five seconds” before turning the knob of the unlocked front door and entering Hudson’s home.  Police discovered large quantities of drugs, including cocaine rocks in Hudson’s pocket and a loaded gun.  Hudson was charged under Michigan law with unlawful drug and firearm possession.  Hudson moved to suppress the evidence. 

Highlights of Justice Scalia’s Majority Opinion

• The issue was whether a violation of the “knock-and-announce” rule requires the suppression of all evidence found in the search.

• The common law principle that police officers must announce their presence and provide residents an opportunity to open the door is an ancient one.  The Court held in Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U.S. 927 (1995),  that the Fourth Amendment requires that the police comply with this old common law rule.

• “Knock and announce” is not required when there is a threat of physical violence, there is reason to believe the evidence would likely be destroyed if advance notice were given, or if knocking and announcing would be futile.  Richards v. Wisconsin, 520 U.S. 385 (1997).  The standard for determining a valid exception to the rule is “reasonable suspicion” that one of the above grounds exists.

• The Court has previously held that the appropriate time that officers have to wait is “a reasonable wait time”.  In a drug case, “a reasonable wait time” is how long it would take to dispose of the suspected drugs.  United States v. Banks, 540 U.S. 31 (2003).

• The interests protected by the “knock and announce” requirement “do not include the shielding of potential evidence from the government’s eyes.”  Instead, the protected interests are the protection of human life and limb, the protection of property, and elements of privacy and dignity that can be destroyed by a sudden entrance.  Although the government admitted that a violation of the “knock and announce” requirement occurred in this case, the interests protected by the knock and announce requirement do not require application of the exclusionary rule.

• The Court identified other available remedies that individuals can pursue for violations of the “knock and announce” requirement or that police departments and communities can impose in such cases:  civil lawsuits, remedial training, and internal discipline among others.

• Justice Kennedy, in his concurring opinion, said that the Court’s decision “should not be interpreted as suggesting that violations of the requirement (knock and announce) are trivial or beyond the law’s concern”.  “Today’s decision determines only that in the specific context of the knock-and-announce requirement, a violation is not sufficiently related to the later discovery of evidence to justify suppression.”

The Bottom Line

In Virginia, the courts have said that the knock and announce requirement requires police, prior to entering a dwelling, to (1) knock, (2) identify themselves as police officers, (3) indicate the reason for their presence, and (4) wait a reasonable period of time for the occupants to open the door unless announcing their presence would increase their peril, allow suspects to escape, or likely result in the destruction of evidence.  Hudson v. Michigan does not eliminate the knock and announce requirement but will prevent criminal courts from suppressing evidence obtained in searches where officers violate the requirement.  Other remedies as discussed above will still be available to address the officers’ conduct.