Knock and Announce: A Fourth Amendment Standard

By Bulzomi, Michael J. | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, May 1997 | Go to article overview

Knock and Announce: A Fourth Amendment Standard

Bulzomi, Michael J., The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin

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 should structure their "no-knock" and "dynamic entry" search and seizure policies and practices to ensure they meet constitutional standards of reasonableness. An unconstitutional entry may result in the suppression of evidence and possible civil liability.


The defendant in Wilson made a series of drug sales to an Arkansas State Police informant 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, a gun, and ammunition. They also found the defendant in the act of flushing marijuana down the toilet.

Prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress 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 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 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 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 entering an individual's home.(3)

Knock and Announce Legislation

Despite this common law background, 34 states, the District of Columbia, 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 or when necessary to liberate 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. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Knock and Announce: A Fourth Amendment Standard


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.