Wilson v. Arkansas
514 U.S. 927 (1995)

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OCTOBER TERM, 1994

Syllabus

WILSON v. ARKANSAS

CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ARKANSAS No. 94-5707. Argued March 28, 1995-Decided May 22,1995

Petitioner was convicted on state-law drug charges after the Arkansas trial court denied her evidence-suppression motion, in which she asserted that the search of her home was invalid because, inter alia, the police had violated the common-law principle requiring them to announce their presence and authority before entering. The State Supreme Court affirmed, rejecting petitioner's argument that the common-law "knock and announce" principle is required by the Fourth Amendment.

Held: The common-law knock and announce principle forms a part of the Fourth Amendment reasonableness inquiry. pp. 931-937.

(a) An officer's unannounced entry into a home might, in some circumstances, be unreasonable under the Amendment. In evaluating the scope of the constitutional right to be secure in one's house, this Court has looked to the traditional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures afforded by the common law at the time of the framing. Given the longstanding common-law endorsement of the practice of announcement, and the wealth of founding-era commentaries, constitutional provisions, statutes, and cases espousing or supporting the knock and announce principle, this Court has little doubt that the Amendment's Framers thought that whether officers announced their presence and authority before entering a dwelling was among the factors to be considered in assessing a search's reasonableness. Nevertheless, the common-law principle was never stated as an inflexible rule requiring announcement under all circumstances. Countervailing law enforcement interests-including, e. g., the threat of physical harm to police, the fact that an officer is pursuing a recently escaped arrestee, and the existence of reason to believe that evidence would likely be destroyed if advance notice were given-may establish the reasonableness of an unannounced entry. For now, this Court leaves to the lower courts the task of determining such relevant countervailing factors. Pp. 934-936.

(b) Respondent's asserted reasons for affirming the judgment below-that the police reasonably believed that a prior announcement would have placed them in peril and would have produced an unreasonable risk that petitioner would destroy easily disposable narcotics evidence-may well provide the necessary justification for the unannounced entry in this case. The case is remanded to allow the state


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Syllabus

courts to make the reasonableness determination in the first instance. P.937.

317 Ark. 548, 878 S. W. 2d 755, reversed and remanded.

THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

John Wesley Hall, Jr., argued the cause and filed briefs for petitioner.

Winston Bryant, Attorney General of Arkansas, argued the cause for respondent. With him on the briefs were Kent G. Holt, Vada Berger, and David R. Raupp, Assistant Attorneys General, and Andrew D. Leipold.

Deputy Solicitor General Dreeben argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging affirmance. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Days, Assistant Attorney General Harris, Paul A. Engelmayer, and Deborah Watson. *

*Tracey Maclin, Steven R. Shapiro, and Ephraim Margolin filed a brief for the American Civil Liberties Union et al. as amicus curiae urging reversal.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the State of California et al. by Daniel E. Lungren, Attorney General of California, Richard Rochman, Assistant Attorney General, and Eleni M. Constantine, and by the Attorneys General for their respective jurisdictions as follows: Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Grant Woods of Arizona, Gale A. Norton of Colorado, M. Jane Brady of Delaware, Robert A. Butterworth of Florida, Margery S. Bronster of Hawaii, Alan G. Lance of Idaho, Jim Ryan of Illinois, Tom Miller of Iowa, Carla J. Stovall of Kansas, Chris Gorman of Kentucky, Andrew Ketterer of Maine, J. Joseph Curran, Jr., of Maryland, Frank J. Kelley of Michigan, Mike Moore of Mississippi, Jeremiah W "Jay" Nixon of Missouri, Joseph P. Mazurek of Montana, Don Stenberg of Nebraska, Frankie Sue Del Papa of Nevada, Deborah T. Poritz of New Jersey, Dennis C. Vacco of New York, Michael F. Easley of North Carolina, Betty Montgomery of Ohio, Theodore R. Kulongoski of Oregon, Jeffrey B. Pine of Rhode Island, Charlie Condon of South Carolina, Mark Bennett of South Dakota, Dan Morales of Texas, Jan Graham of Utah, Jeffrey L. Amestoy of Vermont, and James S. Gilmore III of Virginia; for Wayne County, Michigan, by John D. O'Hair and Timothy A. Baughman; and for Americans for Effective Law Enforcement, Inc., et al. by Fred E. Inbau, Wayne W Schmidt, James P. Manak, Richard M. Weintraub, Robert L. Deschamps, and Bernard J. Farber.


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Full Text of Opinion

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