United States v. Weaver

Decision Date04 September 2015
Docket NumberNo. 13–3097.,13–3097.
Citation808 F.3d 26
Parties UNITED STATES of America, Appellee v. Michael Anthony WEAVER, Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — District of Columbia Circuit

Beverly G. Dyer, Assistant Federal Public Defender, argued the cause for appellant. With her on the briefs was A.J. Kramer, Federal Public Defender. Tony Axam, Jr., Assistant Federal Public Defender, entered an appearance.

Patricia A. Heffernan, Assistant U.S. Attorney, argued the cause for appellee. With her on the brief were Ronald C. Machen, Jr., U.S. Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, Elizabeth H. Danello, and John P. Dominguez, Assistant U.S. Attorneys.

Before: HENDERSON, ROGERS and PILLARD, Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge PILLARD.

Dissenting opinion filed by Circuit Judge HENDERSON.

PILLARD, Circuit Judge:

This appeal requires us to answer a question left unresolved by the Supreme Court in Hudson v. Michigan , 547 U.S. 586, 126 S.Ct. 2159, 165 L.Ed.2d 56 (2006) : Whether the exclusionary rule is applicable when law enforcement officers violate the Fourth Amendment's knock-and-announce rule while executing a warrant to arrest a suspect found at home.

The knock-and-announce rule requires that, before officers executing a warrant enter a home, they knock on the door and announce their identity and purpose, and then wait a reasonable time before forcibly entering. In Hudson , the Supreme Court held that, when officers violate that rule in executing a search warrant, exclusion of the evidence they find is not an appropriate remedy. The Court reasoned that the officers would have discovered the evidence in any event when they went through the house under the authority of the valid search warrant. As the Court emphasized, the knock-and-announce rule "has never protected" any "interest in preventing the government from seeing or taking evidence described in a warrant." Id. at 594, 126 S.Ct. 2159. Where officers armed with a search warrant have a judicially-sanctioned prerogative to invade the privacy of the home, the knock-and-announce violation does not cause the seizure of the disputed evidence. In that context, the exclusionary remedy's significant costs outweigh its minimal privacy-shielding role, and its deterrent utility is "not worth a lot." Id. at 596, 126 S.Ct. 2159.

Unlike the officers in Hudson , who had a warrant to search the home, the officers here acted pursuant to a warrant to arrest a person. An arrest warrant reflects no judicial determination of grounds to search the home; rather, it evidences probable cause to believe that the arrestee has committed a crime, and authorizes his arrest wherever he might be found. If an arrestee is found away from home—at work, on the street, or at someone else's home—the privacy of his home remains inviolate. So, too, if an arrestee is not at home when officers seek him there, or if he comes to the door and makes himself available for arrest, the arrest warrant does not authorize officers to enter the home. Any prerogative an arrest warrant may confer to enter a home is thus narrow and highly contingent on the particular circumstances of the arrest.

An individual subject to an arrest warrant accordingly retains a robust privacy interest in the home's interior. That privacy interest is protected by requiring law enforcement officers executing an arrest warrant to knock, announce their identity and purpose, and provide the arrestee with the opportunity to come to the door before they barge in. And, where evidence is obtained because officers violated the knock-and-announce rule in executing an arrest warrant at the arrestee's home, the exclusionary rule retains its remedial force. Under Hudson's own analytic approach, then, exclusion of the evidence may be an appropriate remedy.

Justice Kennedy took care to underscore in his separate opinion in Hudson that "the continued operation of the exclusionary rule, as settled and defined by our precedents, is not in doubt." Id. at 603, 126 S.Ct. 2159. He provided the fifth vote for the majority opinion because the knock-and-announce violation before the court was "not sufficiently related to the later discovery of evidence to justify suppression." Id. The critical inquiry was there, as it is here, whether the knock-and-announce violation could "properly be described as having caused the discovery of evidence," id. at 604, 126 S.Ct. 2159, and, if so, whether its costs outweigh its benefits. Where the "requirement of causation" that animates the exclusionary rule has not been obviated as it was by the search warrant in Hudson, id., and where the exclusionary rule retains remedial force to protect the core Fourth Amendment privacy interest in the home, cf. id. at 603–04, 126 S.Ct. 2159, we consider it our duty to apply it.

We thus analyze the factors the Court considered in Hudson to determine whether the exclusionary rule applies when the knock-and-announce rule is violated in the arrest warrant context. We consider whether the violation causes the seizure of evidence such that evidentiary suppression furthers the interests underlying the knock-and-announce rule, and whether the benefits of applying the exclusionary rule outweigh its costs. Examining those factors, we conclude that exclusion was the appropriate remedy here, where officers executing a warrant for defendant Michael Weaver's arrest sought him at home, violated the knock-and-announce rule, and discovered Weaver's marijuana upon their forced entry into Weaver's apartment. Accordingly, we reverse the district court's decision to the contrary.


Federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives began investigating defendant Michael Weaver in 2008, when he came to their attention during the course of a drug-related investigation targeting a different suspect. As part of their investigation into Weaver, the agents searched through trash outside his home and found marijuana. They also learned from the target of the first investigation that Weaver had sold drugs for more than a year and trafficked in significant quantities of marijuana. The agents executed a warrant to search Weaver's residence in late 2009 and discovered more than 500 grams of marijuana, $38,000 in cash, and drug packaging materials. The agents also reviewed Weaver's bank records and identified regular, unexplained cash deposits and a balance of more than $100,000 from unknown sources. In April 2010, the agents relied on that information to obtain a warrant for Weaver's arrest. Prosecutors indicted Weaver on 52 separate counts, including possession with intent to distribute marijuana and money laundering.

The government was unable to apprehend Weaver until 2012, when the agents learned the location of his new residence. After arriving at Weaver's building, the agents knocked on his apartment door twice. There was no answer, but the agents heard movement inside. They were not concerned that Weaver would flee out a window because the apartment was on a high floor. Less than a minute later, the agents announced "police" and immediately used a key they had obtained from the building's concierge to unlock the door. They did not inform Weaver that they had a warrant to arrest him. As the agents attempted to open the door, someone inside tried to hold the door closed. The officers were able to push the door open, and, after a brief struggle, they subdued Weaver, arrested him, and removed him from the apartment.

In the course of arresting Weaver, the officers smelled marijuana. One of the officers testified that as soon as he "came in" and "looked to the left" or "turned left" toward the kitchen, he observed "bags of marijuana" on the counter. Based on those observations, the officers obtained a search warrant for the apartment and found several kilograms of marijuana, two tablets of oxycodone, a bag of the drug methylenexdioxymethcathinone (commonly referred to as MDMC, or bath salts), and nearly $10,000 in cash. The government then charged Weaver with three additional counts: one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana and two counts of possession of a controlled substance.

At trial, Weaver moved to suppress the evidence seized during the 2012 search of his apartment. He contended that the warrant authorizing that search derived solely from the observations agents made while executing the arrest warrants, and that the agents were not legally authorized to be in his apartment when they made those observations because they had violated the knock-and-announce rule. Weaver further argued that Hudson did not preclude the application of the exclusionary rule to his case.

The district court rejected Weaver's contentions and denied his motion to suppress. The district court first concluded that there was no knock-and-announce violation because the officers knocked, announced "police," and then waited a reasonable time before opening the door. Even if there had been a violation, the court held that Weaver would not prevail because it concluded that Hudson held the exclusionary rule inapplicable to knock-and-announce violations generally.

In a separate order, the district court held that Weaver's speedy trial rights were violated with respect to the first 52 counts of the indictment, and so dismissed them. The government then entered into an agreement with Weaver concerning the more recent counts of the indictment. The government dismissed the counts for possession of oxycodone and MDMC, and Weaver agreed to a bench trial on stipulated facts on the remaining charge of possession with intent to distribute marijuana. After that trial, the district court found Weaver guilty.

Weaver appeals the district court's denial of his suppression motion. On such an appeal, we review the court's legal conclusions de novo and its findings of fact for clear error. United States v. Pindell, 336 F.3d 1049, 1052 (D.C.Cir.2003).


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