Hudson v. Michigan

PETITIONER:Booker T. Hudson, Jr.
LOCATION:Board of Immigration Appeals

DOCKET NO.: 04-1360
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2006-2009)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 547 US 586 (2006)
GRANTED: Jun 27, 2005
REARGUED: May 18, 2006
DECIDED: Jun 15, 2006
ARGUED: Jan 09, 2006

David A. Moran – argued the cause for Petitioner
David B. Salmons – argued the cause for Respondent
Timothy A. Baughman – argued the cause for Respondent

Facts of the case

Booker T. Hudson was convicted of drug and firearm possession in state court after police found cocaine and a gun in his home. The police had a search warrant, but failed to follow the Fourth Amendment “knock and announce” rule which requires police officers to wait 20-30 seconds after knocking and announcing their presence before they enter the home. The trial judge ruled that the evidence found in the home could therefore not be used, but the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed based on two Michigan Supreme Court cases that created an exception to the suppression of evidence when the evidence in question would have inevitably been found.


Does the general rule excluding evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment apply to the “knock-and-announce” rule?

Media for Hudson v. Michigan

Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument – May 18, 2006 in Hudson v. Michigan
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – January 09, 2006 in Hudson v. Michigan

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 15, 2006 in Hudson v. Michigan

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Justice Scalia has the opinion in 04-1360, Hudson versus Michigan.

Antonin Scalia:

This case is here on writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals of Michigan.

The police obtained a warrant to search the home of petitioner, Booker Hudson, for narcotics and weapons.

They found both; but in executing the warrant, the police had failed to observe the knock-and-announce requirement of the Fourth Amendment, which we have held requires police to knock, announce their presence and give residents a reasonable wait time before forcing entry.

In this case, they did knock; but they waited only five seconds before opening the unlocked door.

The State conceded that this was not long enough.

There are generous exceptions to the knock-and-announce rule, but the State did not contend that any of those exceptions applied here.

Hudson therefore moved to suppress the evidence that the police had found.

The trial court granted the motion; but on interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals, relying on a Michigan Supreme Court holding that knock-and-announce violations do not require suppression, reversed.

The evidence was admitted, and Hudson was convicted of drug possession.

We granted certiorari solely to consider the remedial question, whether a violation of the knock-and-announce rule invokes the exclusionary rule.

In an opinion filed today with the Clerk, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals of Michigan.

As a general matter, suppression of evidence has always been our last resort, not our first impulse.

We have always acknowledged the substantial social costs associated with the exclusionary rule, among them, allowing the guilty to escape punishment because of Government errors and setting loose dangerous individuals upon society.

To invoke the exclusionary rule, our cases require three showings: first, that the Constitutional violation be a but-for cause of obtaining the evidence; second, that the causation not be attenuated; and, third, that exclusion of the evidence be the only effective deterrent of the Constitutional violation.

We think Hudson meets none of these three tests: first, the illegal manner of entry here was not a but-for cause of the police’s obtaining the evidence.

The police had a valid warrant that authorized them to go inside and take drugs or guns if they found them.

Whether they waited 5 seconds or 25 seconds, they would have found the guns and drugs; second, even assuming that there was causation, it was to attenuate it, because, as we have held, “the penalties visited upon the Government, and in turn upon the public because its officers have violated the law must bear some relation to the purposes which the law is to serve”.

The purpose of the knock-and-announce rule is threefold: it protects human life and limb.

If an officer bursts into one’s home, any citizens will assume him to be a criminal and may reach for a weapon of their own; second, the rule protects property.

If citizens are asked to open the door for law enforcement, they will save themselves the expense of having to buy a new door or a new door frame; and, third, the rule protects the privacy and dignity that may be destroyed by a sudden entrance.

As one of our prior cases put it, “the brief interlude between announcement and entry with a warrant may be the opportunity that an individual has to pull on clothes or get out of bed”.

None of these three interests relates to preventing the police from seizing evidence.

That is the interest protected by the warrant requirement, and there was a warrant here.

Finally, coming back to the last of the three requirements for application of the exclusionary rule, the deterrent benefits of exclusion in this context seem to us minimal, and other determinants of knock-and-announce violations already exist.

We must balance this slight deterrence benefit against the costs the exclusionary rule imposes.

In addition to the usual cost of setting the criminal free, applying the exclusionary rule here to knock-and-announce violations will produce a flood of knock-and-announce claims by defendants entering a cost-free lottery with a get-out-of-jail-free card as the prize, and resolving those claims will not be as easy as resolving a claimed violation of the warrant requirement.

There either was a warrant, or there was not.

But how long is a reasonable wait time, and precisely how many seconds did the police actually wait?

Rather than deterring misconduct, the exclusionary rule would more likely deter proper police conduct.

Antonin Scalia:

Aware that a finding that they violated the knock-and-announce rule could lead to a violent criminal’s release, the police may be inclined to wait too long, giving criminals an opportunity to run to the bathroom and flush their drugs away or to load their weapons and take aim at the police.

As for the benefits to be derived from applying the exclusionary rule, to begin with, we doubt that there is much incentive to violate the knock-and-announce rule anyway.

The rule is subject to a broad exception, we have held.

Whenever the police have a mere, “reasonable suspicion” that knocking and announcing would be dangerous, or would permit destruction of evidence.

When the police have no such suspicion, it seems unlikely that they would prefer to burst in rather than wait a few more seconds, often for their own benefit.

And lastly, other remedies exist for cases in which the rule is violated.

The exclusionary rule was initially applied against states in 1961, half a century ago, in an environment quite different from today’s.

There were no real remedies for police misconduct.

By contrast, Section 1983 in our opinion in a case called Bivens now permit damage actions in federal courts against state and federal officers.

Courts regularly entertain such actions on knock-and-announce violations.

Section 1988 authorizes attorneys’ fees, which is a deterrent by itself.

There has been a substantial increase in the numbers of public-interest lawyers willing to assist in such lawsuits since we first adopted the exclusionary rule, and policing has become a much more professional enterprise, providing police review boards and the deterrents of a bad record and denied promotion for the police violator.

Part III of the opinion, the only part not shown by Justice Kennedy, explains why three of our prior cases demand the result we have reached here.

For these reasons, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals of Michigan; Justice Kennedy has filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment; Justice Breyer has filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Stevens, Souter and Ginsburg have joined.