391 U.S. 585 (1968), 898, Sabbath v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 898
Citation:391 U.S. 585, 88 S.Ct. 1755, 20 L.Ed.2d 828
Party Name:Sabbath v. United States
Case Date:June 03, 1968
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 585

391 U.S. 585 (1968)

88 S.Ct. 1755, 20 L.Ed.2d 828



United States

No. 898

United States Supreme Court

June 3, 1968

Argued May 2, 1968




One Jones was apprehended crossing the border from Mexico with cocaine, allegedly given to him by, and to be delivered to, "Johnny" in Los Angeles. Customs officers arranged for Jones to make delivery. Shortly after Jones entered "Johnny's" apartment, customs agents, without a warrant, knocked on the door, waited a few seconds, and, receiving no response, opened the unlocked door and entered. They arrested petitioner, searched the apartment, and found the cocaine and other items. The cocaine was introduced over objection at petitioner's trial for knowingly importing and concealing narcotics, and he was convicted. The Court of Appeals held that the agents did not "break open" the door within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 3109, which provides in part that an

officer may break open any outer or inner door or window of a house . . . 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,

and that they were therefore not required to make a prior announcement of "authority and purpose."


1. The validity of an entry of a federal officer to effect a warrantless arrest "must be tested by criteria identical to those embodied in" 18 U.S.C. § 3109, which deals with an entry to execute a search warrant. Miller v. United States, 357 U.S. 301; Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471. Pp. 588-589.

2. Section 3109, a codification of the common law rule of announcement, basically proscribes an unannounced intrusion into a dwelling, which includes opening a closed but unlocked door. Pp. 589-591.

3. Whether or not exigent circumstances would excuse compliance with § 3109, here there were none, as the agents had no basis for assuming petitioner was armed or that he might resist arrest, or that Jones was in danger. P. 591.

380 F.2d 108, reversed and remanded.

Page 586

MARSHALL, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

The issue in this case is whether petitioner's arrest was invalid because federal officers opened the closed but unlocked door of petitioner's apartment and entered in order to arrest him without first announcing their identity and purpose. We hold that the method of entry vitiated the arrest and therefore that evidence seized in the subsequent search incident thereto should not have been admitted at petitioner's trial.

On February 19, 1966, one William Jones was detained at the border between California and Mexico by United States customs agents, who found in his possession an ounce of cocaine. After some questioning, Jones told the agents that he had been given the narcotics in Tijuana, Mexico, by a person named "Johnny," whom he had accompanied there from Los Angeles. He said he was to transport the narcotics to "Johnny" in the latter city.

Also found in Jones' possession was a card on which was written the name "Johnny" and a Los Angeles telephone number. On the following day at about 3 p.m., Jones made a call to the telephone number listed on the card; a customs agent dialed the number, and with Jones' permission, listened to the ensuing conversation. A male voice answered the call, and Jones addressed the man as "Johnny." Jones said he was in San Diego, and still had "his thing." The man asked Jones if he had "any trouble getting through the line." Jones replied that he had not. Jones inquired whether "Johnny" planned to remain at home, and upon receiving an affirmative answer, indicated that he was on his way to Los Angeles, and would go to the man's apartment.

Page 587

At about 7:30 that evening, the...

To continue reading