Printer Friendly
The Free Library
22,719,120 articles and books

Knock and announce: a Fourth Amendment standard.

In Wilson v. Arkansas,(1) decided in 1995, a unanimous Supreme Court held for the first time that whether police "knock and announce" their presence before executing valid search warrants is part of the Fourth Amendment inquiry into the reasonableness of a search. This article discusses the Wilson decision and its practical impact on law enforcement entry to premises. The article offers advice on how law enforcement agencies A law enforcement agency (LEA) is a term used to describe any agency which enforces the law. This may be a local or state police, federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  should structure their "no-knock" and "dynamic entry" search and seizure search and seizure

In law enforcement, an exploratory investigation of a premises or a person and the taking into custody of property or an individual in the interest of gaining evidence of unlawful activity or guilt.
 policies and practices to ensure they meet constitutional standards of reasonableness. An unconstitutional unconstitutional adj. referring to a statute, governmental conduct, court decision or private contract (such as a covenant which purports to limit transfer of real property only to Caucasians) which violate one or more provisions of the U. S. Constitution.  entry may result in the suppression of evidence suppression of evidence n. 1) a judge's determination not to allow evidence to be admitted in a criminal trial because it was illegally obtained or was discovered due to an illegal search.  and possible civil liability.


The defendant in Wilson made a series of drug sales to an Arkansas State Police informant informant Historian Medtalk A person who provides a medical history  and threatened the informant with a gun. The police later went to the defendant's apartment to execute a search warrant and found the front door open. Upon opening an unlocked screen door to enter the residence, the police identified themselves and stated that they had a warrant. Once inside the home, the officers seized various drugs, paraphernalia PARAPHERNALIA. The name given to all such things as a woman has a right to retain as her own property, after her husband's death; they consist generally of her clothing, jewels, and ornaments suitable to her condition, which she used personally during his life. , a gun, and ammunition. They also found the defendant in the act of flushing marijuana marijuana or marihuana, drug obtained from the flowering tops, stems, and leaves of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa (see hemp) or C. indica; the latter species can withstand colder climates.  down the toilet.

Prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress motion to suppress n. a motion (usually on behalf of a criminal defendant) to disallow certain evidence in an up-coming trial. Example: a confession which the defendant alleges was signed while he was drunk or without the reading of his Miranda rights.  the evidence seized during the search, arguing that the police had violated her Fourth Amendment rights by failing to knock and announce prior to entering her home. The trial court denied the suppression motion and the Arkansas Supreme Court The Arkansas Supreme Court is the highest court in the U.S. state of Arkansas. It consists of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices. The Justices are elected in a non-partisan election for a term of eight years.  affirmed her conviction by concluding that knock and announce is not a Fourth Amendment requirement.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed and held that the knock and announce principle is a constitutionally based requirement in assessing whether entry to premises to conduct a search and seizure is reasonable. The Court did so by looking at the background and formulation of the knock and announce rule based See rules based.  in common law.

Common Law Origin of Knock and Announce

The common law knock and announce principle deals with the right to privacy, specifically in one's home. The knock and announce requirement, well-established in England by the 18th century, quickly became woven into the fabric of early American law. Despite many exceptions and a history of abuse, some form of notice or demand for admission generally preceded the service of general warrants and writs WRITS, JUDICIAL, practice. In England those writs which issue from the common law courts during the progress of a suit, are described as judicial writs, by way of distinction from the original one obtained from chancery. 3 Bl. Com. 282.  of assistance in early Colonial America.(2)

It is clear that the framers of the Fourth Amendment were familiar with the abusive search and seizure practices used by the British government and adopted the amendment as a response to such practices. Although unannounced searches are not explicitly prohibited in the Constitution, the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures implicity embraces the common law principle that law enforcement officers should announce their purpose and authority before forcibly forc·i·ble  
1. Effected against resistance through the use of force: The police used forcible restraint in order to subdue the assailant.

2. Characterized by force; powerful.
 entering an individual's home.(3)

Knock and Announce Legislation

Despite this common law background, 34 states, the District of Columbia District of Columbia, federal district (2000 pop. 572,059, a 5.7% decrease in population since the 1990 census), 69 sq mi (179 sq km), on the east bank of the Potomac River, coextensive with the city of Washington, D.C. (the capital of the United States). , and the federal government have enacted statutes requiring that law enforcement officers knock and announce their presence prior to making forced entry to premises.(4) A typical example of a statutory enactment is the federal knock and announce statute, which 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 Admittance

The ratio of the current to the voltage in an alternating-current circuit. In terms of complex current I and voltage V, the admittance of a circuit is given by Eq. (1), and is related to the impedance of the circuit Z by Eq. (2).
 or when necessary to liberate (Liberate Technologies, San Mateo, CA) A software company that specialized in the information appliance field. Formerly Network Computer, Inc. (NCI), a spin-off from Oracle in 1996, it changed its name in 1999.  himself or a person aiding him in the execution of the warrant.(5)

Some jurisdictions enacted legislation providing for so-called no-knock warrants. However, controversy precipitated by no-knock warrants resulted in Congress' repealing the federal no-knock statute in 1974. Only a few states currently have statutes authorizing no-knock warrants.


American courts have long recognized that effective and safe law enforcement necessitates some exceptions to the knock and announce rule. For example, the following language was contained in a 1969 decision by the Washington State Supreme Court:

In most cases, lawful entry is conditioned upon announcement of identity and purpose, and a demand of admittance. On the other hand, however, the conditions cannot be rigid and inflexible or they become an empty formality formality, in chemistry: see chemical equilibrium; concentration. . The conditions are part of a criteria of reasonableness and subject to certain exceptions generally recognized."(6)

In Wilson, the Supreme Court restated some of these very words in recognizing the applicability of the common law exceptions to the now-constitutionally based knock and announce rule.(7) While the Wilson decision does not delineate the conditions that constitute a reasonable unannounced entry, courts generally have recognized the following three exceptions to the announcement rule: 1) apprehension of peril 2) useless gesture and 3) the destruction of evidence.

Apprehension of Peril Exception

The apprehension of peril exception is triggered when officers entering premises have a reasonable belief that to announce their presence prior to the entry would increase the likelihood of injury either to themselves or to others. Wilson recognized that a no-knock entry would be almost certainly constitutionally permissible under circumstances indicating the occupants would respond to announcement with physical violence.

Mere knowledge that a suspect has weapons in the house generally is not a sufficient justification for an unannounced entry by police. In United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  v. Lucht,(8) the United States Court of Appeals The United States courts of appeals (or circuit courts) are the intermediate appellate courts of the United States federal court system. A court of appeals decides appeals from the district courts within its federal judicial circuit, and in some instances from other  for the Eighth Circuit held that an unannounced entry was illegal because police had no indication that the suspect was violent or inclined to use the weapons that they believed were present in the house.

However, courts are generally sympathetic to police when they have a reasonable belief that the suspect is armed under circumstances indicating danger. For example, the Supreme Court of Florida held that police were justified in invoking the apprehension of peril exception in a murder case where the suspect had committed armed robbery of a deputy and had used a gun or knife in several rapes.(9) Here, police not only had knowledge that the suspect possessed weapons inside his premises but also that he had committed a violent crime and had a history of violent behavior.

In United States v. Buckley,(10) officers knew that the defendants possessed firearms This is an extensive list of small arms — pistol, machine gun, grenade launcher, anti-tank rifle — that includes variants.

: Top - 0–9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  • A-91 (Russia - Compact Assault Rifle - 5.
 and also that they had a pit bull. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit concluded that the presence of the pit bull indicated danger and justified the unannounced entry. The Fourth Amendment does not require that police risk Fighting off a forewarned attack dog before executing their warrant.

As a general rule, the apprehension of peril exception to the announcement rule applies where police have specific knowledge that a suspect has used a weapon criminally or threatened to use a weapon to avoid arrest. Accordingly, courts have upheld the exception where officers previously were threatened while serving a warrant on the defendant(11) and where the suspect had vowed not to return to prison.(12)

Useless Gesture Exception

The useless gesture exception to the knock and announce rule arises when the occupants of a house already have notice of the officers' nature and authority. This exception stems from the notion that if the occupants realize the purpose of the police visit, the purpose of the knock and announce rule already has been satisfied. Similarly, announcement is a useless gesture where police are certain that a dwelling is unoccupied.

Courts generally follow the Supreme Court's guidelines guidelines, a set of standards, criteria, or specifications to be used or followed in the performance of certain tasks.
 in Miller v. United States,(13) in determining whether the suspects' conduct at the scene of the entry justifies an unannounced entry under the useless gesture exception. The Miller test requires that officers be "virtually certain" that the occupants of a house are aware not only of their authority but also of their purpose. Establishing a virtually certain belief requires more than merely evidence that the occupants of a house have observed the police's arrival. Police must couple with that evidence a logical inference that the occupants also are aware of why the police are there, such as hearing the sound of people running from the door as the police approach.(14)

Destruction of Evidence Exception

The destruction of evidence exception allows police to forego announcement if they reasonably believe that announcement would lead to the destruction of evidence or to a subject's escape. However, courts disagree regarding the quality and quantity of information officers must have regarding the likelihood of destruction of evidence or escape. While probable cause Apparent facts discovered through logical inquiry that would lead a reasonably intelligent and prudent person to believe that an accused person has committed a crime, thereby warranting his or her prosecution, or that a Cause of Action has accrued, justifying a civil lawsuit.  is the generally accepted standard for escape, courts, particularly in drug searches, have developed two competing approaches in determining the requisite showing of risk required to trigger the destruction of evidence. These are the "particularity par·tic·u·lar·i·ty  
n. pl. par·tic·u·lar·i·ties
1. The quality or state of being particular rather than general.

 approach" and the "blanket approach."

The Particularity Approach

Under the particularity approach, courts require proof that officers were aware of specific facts at the scene that created the risk of the destruction of evidence. For example, some courts require evidence that the drugs are kept in a form, such as in small packages, that would facilitate rapid destruction. Others require a particularized par·tic·u·lar·ize  
v. par·tic·u·lar·ized, par·tic·u·lar·iz·ing, par·tic·u·lar·iz·es
1. To mention, describe, or treat individually; itemize or specify.

 display of ability or inclination to destroy items sought by police.

In some jurisdictions, the fact that a house has normal plumbing facilities satisfies the question of ability or inclination to destroy evidence, thus allowing police to presume that exigent circumstances An exigent circumstance, in the American law of criminal procedure, allows law enforcement to enter a structure without a warrant, or if they have a "knock and announce" warrant, without knocking and waiting for refusal under certain circumstances.  exist and excusing compliance with the knock and announce rule.(15) Because many drug offenders attempt to flush their drugs down the toilet when they perceive that the police are about to raid their homes, plumbing in the house creates a risk of destruction of evidence sufficient to justify the exception.

The Blanket Approach

Under the blanket approach, courts do not require a showing that officers had any particular reason to believe that the evidence they were searching for was in danger of destruction. Rather, the mere nature of the evidence sought, such as drugs or gambling records, creates a per se exception to the announce rule. The basis for this blanket approach is the officer's general experience that the type of evidence being searched for is susceptible to quick destruction thereby meriting a no-knock exception.

State and federal courts are divided over the validity of the blanket approach.(17) However, the Supreme Court may rule on the constitutionality of the blanket approach when it renders a decision in Richards v. Wisconsin.(18) The question presented in this case is whether the Fourth Amendment, as interpreted by Wilson v. Arkansas, would permit a blanket exception to the announcement rule if drugs are the object of the search without looking at particular circumstances pertaining per·tain  
intr.v. per·tained, per·tain·ing, per·tains
1. To have reference; relate: evidence that pertains to the accident.

 to the entry.


The Supreme Court has determined that "every householder, the good and the bad, the guilty and the innocent, is entitled en·ti·tle  
tr.v. en·ti·tled, en·ti·tling, en·ti·tles
1. To give a name or title to.

2. To furnish with a right or claim to something:
 to the protection designed to secure the common interest against unlawful invasion of the house."(19) The knock and announce rule provides citizens with psychological security, knowing that one need not fear an unexpected intrusion. Privacy interests also are protected, avoiding unnecessary embarrassment, shock, or property damage resulting from an unannounced entry.

The rule serves to protect both the individual citizen and the police from the risk of harm and the potential for violence that may occur as a result of an unannounced entry.(20) Announcement protects officers by ensuring that they are not "mistaken for prowlers and shot down by a fearful householder."(21) Innocent citizens also are protected from law enforcement officers who mistakenly might shoot armed occupants who merely are trying to defend themselves from who they preceive to be armed intruders.


A police officer making a high-risk warrant entry is not on an even playing field with the occupants of the premises. When officers announce their authority and purpose they make themselves readily identifiable. The occupants, having concealment in the house, now also know where the announcing officer is and can prepare for violent resistance to police entry. The officer is vulnerable even if no entry is made because ordinary handgun rounds generally can penetrate the walls of a typical house or apartment.

The point of entry into a house, be it a door or a window, is referred to as the fatal funnel. The occupants of the house need only aim their weapons at this point of entry and wait for the target to appear. That target is the law enforcement officer, and at that moment, the officer has no cover and more than likely no idea where the armed occupant occupant n. 1) someone living in a residence or using premises, as a tenant or owner. 2) a person who takes possession of real property or a thing which has no known owner, intending to gain ownership. (See: occupancy)  of the house is located.

The officers are generally backlit An LCD screen that has its own light source from the back of the screen, making the background brighter and characters appear sharper. , so their eyes must adjust to the lighting, or lack thereof, in the house. The armed occupants are presented with a clear target and need no time to adjust to the lighting. The officers may have little or no idea of the layout or floor plan of the premises and will require time to acclimate to their new surroundings. The armed occupants, however, need not acclimate themselves, for this is their home turf.

Moreover, the armed occupants know what they intend to do, whereas the officers only can infer whether the armed occupants intend to fight, flee, or surrender. This creates a situation where the occupants fire first because the officers cannot fire until they have determined the occupants' intention to resist. Such encounters in very close quarters close quarters
Noun, pl

at close quarters
a. engaged in hand-to-hand combat

b. very near together

Noun 1.
 frequently make the initial exchange of gunfire conclusive. The armed occupants may not consider possible harm to innocent bystanders, but the officers must.

Dynamic entries made by multiple three-officer teams have become common practice in many agencies. Diversionary tactics diversionary tactics npltácticas fpl de diversión

diversionary tactics npltactique fsg de diversion

diversionary tactics 
 are employed to lead the armed occupants away from the entry point to be used by the initial entry team. The diversion may be a flashbang concussion concussion

Period of nervous-function impairment that results from relatively mild brain injury, often with no bleeding in the cerebral cortex. It causes brief unconsciousness, followed by mental confusion and physical difficulties.
 grenade grenade (grĭnād`), small bomb filled with explosives, gas, or chemicals and either thrown by hand or shot from a modified rifle or a grenade launcher. Grenades were in use as early as the 15th cent.  or the breaking of a window. The entry is then made by a team that is trained to respond to one another's movements, allowing the first member to go directly to any possible threat and the other team members to secure the remaining sectors of the room.

The initial three-officer entry team secures the first room entered and either proceeds on to secure other rooms of the house, allowing subsequent teams to maintain the secured areas, or the original team holds the secured area and the subsequent teams pass by and secure the rest of the premises. Simultaneous entries through multiple points allows for even faster police control of the premises. The various teams train to secure sectors of the premises and to safely converge with one another.

Tactics, precision, and orderliness are the cornerstones of executing high-risk warrants. Recognizing and implementing these procedures in training and actual warrant executions will help reduce the prospect of officer and suspect bloodshed blood·shed  
The shedding of blood, especially the injury or killing of people.


slaughter; killing

Noun 1.


The Wilson decision requires announcement unless an allowable exigent circumstance exists. The announcement need not be lengthy or elaborate. It need only be "police, we have a warrant to search your house, open the door," spoken loudly enough for someone in the house to hear. Officers shouting "police" as they run to the door with a battering ram battering ram

Medieval weapon consisting of a heavy timber with a metal knob or point at the front. Rams were used to beat down the gates or walls of a besieged city or castle.
, without exigent circumstances, would not suffice.(22) A reasonable amount of time must be given, so that the occupants of the house can comply with the demand. If they refuse to comply, or there is no response and a reasonable time has passed, then a forcible entry forcible entry n. the crime of taking possession of a house or other structure, or land by the use of physical force or serious threats against the occupants.  can be made.

Announcement may not be constitutionally required where one or more of the required exigent circumstances exist: imminent peril, useless gesture, or destruction of evidence. However, officers should carefully evaluate the operational and safety considerations discussed in this article before entering premises and review the facts to determine if exigent circumstances would legally justify a no-knock entry in a particular situation.

Law enforcement officers of other than federal jurisdiction who are interested in this article should consult their legal advisors. Some police procedures ruled permissible under federal constitutional law are of questionable legality le·gal·i·ty  
n. pl. le·gal·i·ties
1. The state or quality of being legal; lawfulness.

2. Adherence to or observance of the law.

3. A requirement enjoined by law. Often used in the plural.
 under state law or are not permitted at all.


1 115 S. Ct. 1914 (1995).

2 Ker v. California Ker v. California, 374 U.S. 23 (1963), was a case before the United States Supreme Court, which incorporated the Fourth Amendment's protections against illegal search and seizure. , 374 U.S. 23, 52 (1963) (Brennan, J., plurality opinion It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with , and into . ).

3 Miller v. United States, 357 U.S. 301, 313 (1958).

4 115 S.Ct. at 1917. In the absence of a statute, some state constitutions have been interpreted to require knock and announce.

5 Title 18 U.S.C. Section 3109.

6 State v. Young, 455 P.2d 595, 597 (Wash. 1969).

7 115 S.Ct. at 1918-19.

8 18 F.3d 541 (8th Cir. 1994) cert (Computer Emergency Response Team) A group of people in an organization who coordinate their response to breaches of security or other computer emergencies such as breakdowns and disasters. . denied, 115 S.Ct. 363 (1994).

9 Power v. State, 605 So. 2d 856, 862-863 (Fla. 1992), cert. denied, 507 U.S. 1037 (1993).

10 4 F.3d 552, 558 (7th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 114 S.Ct. 1084 (1993).

11 People v. Hardin, 535 N.E.2d 1044, 1045-46 (Ill. App. Ct 1989).

12 State ex rel ex rel. conj. abbreviation for Latin ex relatione, meaning "upon being related" or "upon information," used in the title of a legal proceeding filed by a state attorney general (or the federal Department of Justice) on behalf of the government, on the instigation of . Juvenile Dept. Of Multnomah City v. Qutub, 706 P.2d 962, 964-66 (Or. Ct. App.), review denied, 710 P.2d 147 (Or. 1985).

13 357 U.S. 301 (1958).

14 See United States v. James, 764 F.2d 885, 888 (D.C. Cir. 1985).

15 See State v. Stevens, 511 N.W.2d 591 (1994), cert. denied, 115 S.Ct. 2245 (1995); United States v. Moore, 956 F.2d 843, 849-850 (8th Cir. 1992).

16 511 N.W.2d at 595.

17 See, e.g., United States v. Lalor, 996 F.2d 1578 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 114 S.Ct. 485 (1993); United States v. Lucht, 18 F.3d 541 (8th Cir. 1994); United States v. Stewart Stewart v. United States refers to a number of cases heard by the United States Supreme Court, including:
  • United States v. Stewart, 2 U.S. 343 , 2 Dall. 343 (1795)
  • Stewart v. United States, 58 U.S. (17 How.) 116 (1855)
  • United States v. Stewart, 60 U.S. (19 How.
, 867 F.2d 581, 585 (10th Cir. 1989); United States v. Wulferdinger, 782 F.2d 1473 (9th Cir. 1986); United States v. Likas, 448 F.2d 607 (7th Cir. 1971); United States v. One Parcel of Real Property, 873 F.2d 7, 9 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 891 (1989); United States v. Tolliver, 665 F.2d 1005 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 456 U.S. 935 (1982); Rodriguez v. Butler, 536 F.2d 982 (2d Cir. 1976).

18 State v. Richards, 549 N.W.2d 218 (Wis. June 12, 1996), cert. granted. 117 S.Ct. 679 (1997).

19 357 U.S. 313.

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

21 374 U.S. at 58 (Brennan, J., dissenting).

22 Moore v. State, 650 So.2d 958 (Ala.Crim.App. 1994).
COPYRIGHT 1997 Federal Bureau of Investigation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 Reader Opinion




Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Bulzomi, Michael J.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Date:May 1, 1997
Previous Article:Video Teletraining: A Guide to Design, Development, and Use.
Next Article:Virtual learning: distance education for law enforcement.

Related Articles
Obtaining consent to enter by deception.
Consent searches: guidelines for officers.
Sneak and peak warrants: legal issues regarding surreptitious searches.
Curtilage: the expectation of privacy in the yard.
Knock, knock, who's there?
Crime scene searches: the need for Fourth Amendment compliance.
Supreme Court Cases 1998-1999 Term.
Law enforcement response at a crisis scene: protecting lives and preserving the admissibility of evidence.
Mixed messages on the exclusionary rule.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2014 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters