CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, June 15, 2006

5-4 Supreme Court Decision Weakens the Knock First Rule

From Thursday in Hudson v. Michigan, the Supreme Court affirmed the power of police officers backed by a search warrant to enter a home without knocking.

It was not disputed that the Detroit police officers had violated the Supreme Court's modern interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, which generally holds that officers with a warrant should knock first. The question for the justices was whether the violation was serious enough to throw out the appellant's conviction.

The court, in a 5-4 decision, concluded that it was not. Justice Antonin Scalia, in writing the opinion, noted the difference between a situation in which evidence is seized without a warrant and a situation like appellant's when the police came with a warrant. He wrote, too, that other remedies, like civil suits and disciplinary actions within police departments, are in place to counter lapses like those committed by the Detroit officers.

Justice Scalia was joined by Justice Samuel A. Alito and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. Justices Clarence Thomas and Anthony M. Kennedy were also in the majority, but Justice Kennedy wrote a separate opinion in which he said the court's holding today should not be interpreted as suggesting that violations of the knock-and-announce requirement "are trivial or beyond the law's concern." Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote a heated dissent, joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader GinsburgMore. . . [Mark Godsey]

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