United States v. Banks Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Law enforcement officials arrived at the defendant’s home, announced their presence and their warrant, knocked loudly, waited, and then broke open the door.

Facts of the case

On July 15, 1998 police officers, with a warrant, knocked on the door of suspected drug dealer Lashawn Banks. They waited between 15 and 20 seconds, and when Banks did not come to the door they smashed it open with a battering ram. Banks was arrested but, before his trial, he filed a motion to suppress the evidence found in his apartment because, he claimed, the forced entry had been unlawful. When the request was denied, he pled guilty, but eventually attempted to retract his guilty plea on the advice of a new attorney. The new attorney, Randall Roske, argued that the search was unconstitutional because officers did not wait long enough before breaking down the door, and had no evidence that waiting longer would have had negative consequences. A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, ruling the search unconstitutional and suppressing the evidence found during it.


Whether their 15-to-20-second wait before a forcible entry satisfied the Fourth Amendment and 18 U. S. C. Section:3109.


Yes. The court noted that the case turned on the significance of exigency revealed by circumstances known to the officers, for the only substantive difference between the two situations goes to the time at which the officers reasonably anticipated some danger calling for action without delay. Specifically at issue was whether it was reasonable for the officers to suspect imminent loss of evidence in the period prior to their forced entry. The court countered the defendant’s arguments that the fact that the defendant was in the shower, and that 15-20 seconds was insufficient for the defendant to reach the front door were inconsequential to the very risk that justified prompt entry. The court also held 18 U.S.C. Section:3109 is subject to the same exigency exceptions that the Fourth Amendment is.


The appellate court affirmed appellants’ convictions, rejecting their contention that because they were economic competitors, there was no large-scale conspiracy by and between them. The court ruled that the more important consideration than the fact of economic competition between various participants in an overall endeavor to feed and profit from the appetites of the ultimate consumers in such a market was whether the various participants had to know from the nature of the contraband and the vastness and regularity of their own dealings that the illegal efforts of others were required to make their own dealings possible. The appellate court concluded that there was sufficient evidence that appellants were so aware, and that they demonstrated a substantial level of commitment to the conspiracy.

  • Case Brief: 2003
  • Petitioner: United States
  • Respondent: Lashawn Lowell Banks
  • Decided by: Rehnquist Court

Citation: 540 US 31 (2003)
Granted Feb 24, 2003
Argued: Oct 15, 2003
Decided: Dec 2, 2003