469 F.3d 194 (1st Cir. 2006), 06-1287, United States v. Pelletier

Docket Nº:06-1287.
Citation:469 F.3d 194
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Joseph PELLETIER, Defendant, Appellant.
Case Date:November 28, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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469 F.3d 194 (1st Cir. 2006)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,


Joseph PELLETIER, Defendant, Appellant.

No. 06-1287.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.

November 28, 2006

Heard Oct. 5, 2006.

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MAINE [Hon. George Z. Singal, U.S. District Judge] [Hon. David M. Cohen, U.S. Magistrate Judge]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Michael B. Whipple, with whom Thomas F. Hallett Law Offices was on brief, for appellant.

Margaret D. McGaughey, Assistant United States Attorney (Appellate Chief), with whom Paula D. Silsby, United States Attorney, was on brief, for appellee.

Before Selya and Howard, Circuit Judges, and Smith, [*] District Judge.

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

During its last term, the Supreme Court held that a violation of the "knock and announce" rule in the course of executing a search warrant did not justify the suppression of evidence subsequently discovered. See Hudson v. Michigan, --- U.S. ----, 126 S.Ct. 2159, 165 L.Ed.2d 56 (2006). This appeal requires us to determine whether Hudson should be extended to a knock and announce violation committed in the course of executing an arrest warrant. We conclude that the Hudson Court's reasoning mandates such an extension. That conclusion, coupled with our conclusion that the defendant's other arguments are unavailing, prompts us to affirm the judgment below.


The relevant facts are assembled in the magistrate judge's recommended decision, see United States v. Pelletier, No. CRIM. 05-09, 2005 WL 1800084, at *1 (D.Me. July 27, 2005), which the district court adopted in denying the motion to suppress. We assume the reader's familiarity with this exegetic account and rehearse here only those facts that are needed to place the appeal in perspective.

On December 30, 2004, the United States Parole Commission issued an arrest warrant for multiple parole violations (all involving the use of controlled substances) directed at defendant-appellant Joseph Pelletier. Around the same time, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Topsham police department, having come to suspect that the defendant was dealing drugs, obtained a state "no-knock" warrant authorizing the search of the defendant's home on Augusta Road in Bowdoin, Maine. Deputy United States Marshals charged with executing the federal arrest warrant coordinated their efforts with the officers assigned to execute the state search warrant.

At around 7:00 a.m. on the morning of January 21, 2005, a team of law enforcement

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agents arrived at the Augusta Road residence. The agents effected an entry by main force. Once inside, they encountered the defendant's girlfriend, Cheryl Sprague. As the search progressed, some of the officers questioned Sprague and her sister, Jennifer Sewall (who arrived at the house shortly after the entry). Both women disclaimed any knowledge of the defendant's whereabouts.

Officers then repaired to the Sewall residence and interviewed Jennifer's husband. He ruminated that the defendant might be at a motel in Augusta, Maine. Jennifer Sewall subsequently confirmed that the defendant was staying in room 151 at the Econo Lodge Motel.

The officers reached the motel at about 9:00 a.m. They learned that room 151 was registered in Jennifer Sewall's name. When shown a photograph, however, a maintenance man identified the defendant as the occupant. At that juncture, about six to eight officers lined up outside the room. An officer knocked loudly four or five times in rapid succession, eliciting no response. Approximately ten to fifteen seconds after the first knock, the officer used a passkey obtained from the maintenance man to open the door. He yelled "Police!" while his comrades fanned out into the room. They found the defendant face-down on the bed.

The defendant offered no resistance as the officers handcuffed him. The room contained drug paraphernalia in plain view, including a glass crack pipe, a propane torch, steel wool, glassine baggies, and hypodermic needles. In a partially open drawer, the officers observed a thick wad of cash (later determined to aggregate $4,740) and a plastic container of an unknown substance (later determined to be heroin). The Marshals arrested the defendant for parole violations and, according to prosecution witnesses, the defendant was informed of his Miranda rights. See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444-45, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966).

In due course, a federal grand jury charged the defendant with a single count of possession of heroin with intent to distribute. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). In a pretrial motion to suppress, the defendant argued that the officers' failure to comply with the knock and announce rule demanded exclusion of all subsequently gathered evidence and statements. See Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 484-88, 83 S.Ct. 407, 9 L.Ed.2d 441 (1963) (outlawing prosecutorial use of "fruits of the poisonous tree"). As part of this argument, he asserted that the arrest warrant did not justify an entry into his motel room; that the authorities needed to have a search warrant before seizing any items; and that his statements should be suppressed because they had been obtained involuntarily.

The district court referred the suppression motion to a magistrate judge. Following an evidentiary hearing, the magistrate judge determined that the only preserved issues were (i) the effect of the officers' noncompliance with the knock and announce rule and (ii) the alleged involuntariness of the defendant's statements.1 He resolved both issues in the government's favor. Although the government conceded the knock and announce violation, the magistrate judge, ruling before the Supreme Court decided Hudson, found that exigent circumstances justified the failure properly to knock and announce. As to the second

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issue, the magistrate judge found that the police had administered appropriate Miranda warnings and that no impermissible promises or threats had been made.

Based on these findings, the magistrate judge recommended wholesale denial of the motion to suppress. The defendant objected, but the district court nonetheless embraced the recommendation and denied the motion. See United States v. Pelletier, No. CRIM. 05-09, 2005 WL 2030480, at *1 (D.Me. Aug.23, 2005). The defendant thereafter entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving the right to appeal the suppression rulings. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(a)(2). The district court sentenced the defendant as a career offender to a 151-month in carcerative term. This appeal ensued.


On appeal, the defendant advances three arguments. His flagship claim is that the officers' admitted failure to comply with the knock and announce rule rendered their entry into the motel room unconstitutional (and, thus, required suppression of all the evidence that the illegal entry yielded). Second, the defendant asseverates that his statements should be suppressed because they were obtained involuntarily. Third, and finally, he complains of sentencing error. We consider these contentions sequentially.

A. Knock and Announce.

We begin with the government's conceded violation of the knock and announce rule. That rule, extant at common law, has been codified in a federal statute that provides:

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.

18 U.S.C. § 3109. The rule is not a freestanding expression of policy but, rather, is "a command of the Fourth Amendment." Hudson, 126 S.Ct. at 2162. It applies equally to officers wielding arrest warrants and officers wielding search warrants. See United States v. Alejandro, 368 F.3d 130, 133 (2d Cir. 2004).

In terms, the rule requires law enforcement officers to knock and announce their presence and authority prior to effecting a non-consensual entry into a dwelling. See Richards v. Wisconsin, 520 U.S. 385, 387, 117 S.Ct. 1416, 137 L.Ed.2d 615 (1997); Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U.S. 927, 929, 115 S.Ct. 1914, 131 L.Ed.2d 976 (1995). It is well-settled, however, that in exigent circumstances law enforcement officers may eschew compliance with the rule. See United States v. Ramirez, 523 U.S. 65, 70, 73, 118 S.Ct. 992, 140 L.Ed.2d 191 (1998); Richards, 520 U.S. at 391, 394-95, 117 S.Ct. 1416.

During the pendency of this appeal, the Hudson Court added a further refinement. In that case, the police had obtained a warrant to search for drugs and guns at Hudson's abode. While executing the warrant, the officers announced their presence, but tarried only three to five seconds before turning the doorknob and entering. See Hudson, 126 S.Ct. at 2162.

Hudson sought suppression of evidence subsequently gleaned on the ground that the premature entry violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The Court reiterated the interests protected by the knock and announce rule, including the preemption of violent self-defense measures, the safeguarding of property, and the respecting of human dignity. Id. at 2165. It proceeded to distinguish those interests from

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the interests protected by, for example, the requirement of a valid search warrant, the core purpose of which is to shield "persons, houses, papers, and effects" from desultory government scrutiny. Id. (quoting U.S. Const. amend. IV). As compared to the latter, exclusion of evidence obtained in the case of a knock and announce violation simpliciter would not serve to vindicate the interests at stake. Id. at 2164-65. Weighing the potential deterrent value of applying the exclusionary rule against the potential social costs, the Court concluded that the balance did not favor exclusion....

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