Hudson v. Michigan

Decision Date15 June 2006
Docket NumberNo. 04-1360.,04-1360.
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Detroit police executing a search warrant for narcotics and weapons entered petitioner Hudson's home in violation of the Fourth Amendment's "knock-and-announce" rule. The trial court granted Hudson's motion to suppress the evidence seized, but the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed on interlocutory appeal. Hudson was convicted of drug possession. Affirming, the State Court of Appeals rejected Hudson's renewed Fourth Amendment claim.

Held: The judgment is affirmed.


JUSTICE SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and III, concluding that violation of the "knock-andannounce" rule does not require suppression of evidence found in a search. Pp. 589-599.

(a) Because Michigan has conceded that the entry here was a knock-and-announce violation, the only issue is whether the exclusionary rule is appropriate for such a violation. Pp. 589-590.

(b) This Court has rejected "[i]ndiscriminate application" of the exclusionary rule, United States v. Leon, 468 U. S. 897, 908, holding it applicable only "where its deterrence benefits outweigh its `substantial social costs,'" Pennsylvania Bd. of Probation and Parole v. Scott, 524 U. S. 357, 363. Exclusion may not be premised on the mere fact that a constitutional violation was a "but-for" cause of obtaining the evidence. The illegal entry here was not the but-for cause, but even if it were, but-for causation can be too attenuated to justify exclusion. Attenuation can occur not only when the causal connection is remote, but also when suppression would not serve the interest protected by the constitutional guarantee violated. The interests protected by the knockand-announce rule include human life and limb (because an unannounced entry may provoke violence from a surprised resident), property (because citizens presumably would open the door upon an announcement, whereas a forcible entry may destroy it), and privacy and dignity of the sort that can be offended by a sudden entrance. But the rule has never protected one's interest in preventing the government from seeing or taking evidence described in a warrant. Since the interests violated here have nothing to do with the seizure of the evidence, the exclusionary rule is inapplicable. Pp. 590-594.

(c) The social costs to be weighed against deterrence are considerable here. In addition to the grave adverse consequence that excluding relevant incriminating evidence always entails—the risk of releasing dangerous criminals—imposing such a massive remedy would generate a constant flood of alleged failures to observe the rule, and claims that any asserted justification for a no-knock entry had inadequate support. Another consequence would be police officers' refraining from timely entry after knocking and announcing, producing preventable violence against the officers in some cases, and the destruction of evidence in others. Next to these social costs are the deterrence benefits. The value of deterrence depends on the strength of the incentive to commit the forbidden act. That incentive is minimal here, where ignoring knock-and-announce can realistically be expected to achieve nothing but the prevention of evidence destruction and avoidance of life-threatening resistance, dangers which suspend the requirement when there is "reasonable suspicion" that they exist, Richards v. Wisconsin, 520 U. S. 385, 394. Massive deterrence is hardly necessary. Contrary to Hudson's argument that without suppression there will be no deterrence, many forms of police misconduct are deterred by civil-rights suits, and by the consequences of increasing professionalism of police forces, including a new emphasis on internal police discipline. Pp. 594-599.

JUSTICE SCALIA, joined by The Chief Justice, JUSTICE THOMAS, and JUSTICE ALITO, concluded in Part IV that Segura v. United States, 468 U. S. 796, New York v. Harris, 495 U. S. 14, and United States v. Ramirez, 523 U. S. 65, confirm the conclusion that suppression is unwarranted in this case. Pp. 599-602.

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and III, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Part IV, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS and ALITO, JJ., joined. KENNEDY, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, post, p. 602. Breyer, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEVENS, SOUTER, and GINSBURG, JJ., joined, post, p. 604.


David A. Moran argued and reargued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were Timothy O'Toole, Steven R. Shapiro, Michael J. Steinberg, Kary L. Moss, and Richard D. Korn.

Timothy A. Baughman argued and reargued the cause and filed a brief for respondent.

David B. Salmons argued and reargued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging affirmance. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Clement, Assistant Attorney General Fisher, Deputy Solicitor General Dreeben, and Deborah Watson.*

JUSTICE SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part IV.

We decide whether violation of the "knock-and-announce" rule requires the suppression of all evidence found in the search.


Police obtained a warrant authorizing a search for drugs and firearms at the home of petitioner Booker Hudson. They discovered both. Large quantities of drugs were found, including cocaine rocks in Hudson's pocket. A loaded gun was lodged between the cushion and armrest of the chair in which he was sitting. Hudson was charged under Michigan law with unlawful drug and firearm possession.

This case is before us only because of the method of entry into the house. When the police arrived to execute the warrant, they announced their presence, but waited only a short time—perhaps "three to five seconds," App. 15—before turning the knob of the unlocked front door and entering Hudson's home. Hudson moved to suppress all the inculpatory evidence, arguing that the premature entry violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

The Michigan trial court granted his motion. On interlocutory review, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed, relying on Michigan Supreme Court cases holding that suppression is inappropriate when entry is made pursuant to warrant but without proper "`knock and announce.'" App. to Pet. for Cert. 4 (citing People v. Vasquez, 461 Mich. 235, 602 N. W. 2d 376 (1999) (per curiam); People v. Stevens, 460 Mich. 626, 597 N. W. 2d 53 (1999)). The Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. 465 Mich. 932, 639 N. W. 2d 255 (2001). Hudson was convicted of drug possession. He renewed his Fourth Amendment claim on appeal, but the Court of Appeals rejected it and affirmed the conviction. App. to Pet. for Cert. 1-2. The Michigan Supreme Court again declined review. 472 Mich. 862, 692 N. W. 2d 385 (2005). We granted certiorari. 545 U. S. 1138 (2005).


The common-law principle that law enforcement officers must announce their presence and provide residents an opportunity to open the door is an ancient one. See Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U. S. 927, 931-932 (1995). Since 1917, when Congress passed the Espionage Act, this traditional protection has been part of federal statutory law, see 40 Stat. 229, and is currently codified at 18 U. S. C. § 3109. We applied that statute in Miller v. United States, 357 U. S. 301 (1958), and again in Sabbath v. United States, 391 U. S. 585 (1968). Finally, in Wilson, we were asked whether the rule was also a command of the Fourth Amendment. Tracing its origins in our English legal heritage, 514 U. S., at 931-936, we concluded that it was.

We recognized that the new constitutional rule we had announced is not easily applied. Wilson and cases following it have noted the many situations in which it is not necessary to knock and announce. It is not necessary when "circumstances presen[t] a threat of physical violence," or if there is "reason to believe that evidence would likely be destroyed if advance notice were given," id., at 936, or if knocking and announcing would be "futile," Richards v. Wisconsin, 520 U. S. 385, 394 (1997). We require only that police "have a reasonable suspicion . . . under the particular circumstances" that one of these grounds for failing to knock and announce exists, and we have acknowledged that "[t]his showing is not high." Ibid.

When the knock-and-announce rule does apply, it is not easy to determine precisely what officers must do. How many seconds' wait are too few? Our "reasonable wait time" standard, see United States v. Banks, 540 U. S. 31, 41 (2003), is necessarily vague. Banks (a drug case, like this one) held that the proper measure was not how long it would take the resident to reach the door, but how long it would take to dispose of the suspected drugs—but that such a time (15 to 20 seconds in that case) would necessarily be extended when, for instance, the suspected contraband was not easily concealed. Id., at 40-41. If our ex post evaluation is subject to such calculations, it is unsurprising that, ex ante, police officers about to encounter someone who may try to harm them will be uncertain how long to wait.

Happily, these issues do not confront us here. From the trial level onward, Michigan has conceded that the entry was a knock-and-announce violation. The issue here is remedy. Wilson specifically declined to decide whether the exclusionary rule is appropriate for violation of the knock-and-announce requirement. 514 U. S., at 937, n. 4. That question is squarely before us now.


In Weeks v. United States, 232 U. S. 383 (1914), we adopted the federal exclusionary rule for evidence that was unlawfully seized from a home without a warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment. We began applying the same rule to...

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