Academic journal article Harvard Law Review

Criminal Procedure - Fourth Amendment - D.C. Circuit Holds That Exclusionary Rule Applies to Evidence Obtained as Result of Knock-and-Announce Violations Committed during Execution of Arrest Warrant

Academic journal article Harvard Law Review

Criminal Procedure - Fourth Amendment - D.C. Circuit Holds That Exclusionary Rule Applies to Evidence Obtained as Result of Knock-and-Announce Violations Committed during Execution of Arrest Warrant

Article excerpt

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE--FOURTH AMENDMENT--D.C. CIRCUIT HOLDS THAT EXCLUSIONARY RULE APPLIES TO EVIDENCE OBTAINED AS RESULT OF KNOCK -AND -ANNOUNCE VIOLATIONS COMMITTED DURING EXECUTION OF ARREST WARRANT.--United States v. Weaver, No. 13-3097, 2015 WL 5165990 (D.C. Cir. Sept. 4, 2015).

In Wilson v. Arkansas, (1) the Supreme Court held that one factor in determining whether a search or seizure is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment is whether, before forcibly entering a home to execute a warrant, law enforcement officers knock and announce their "presence and authority," thereby providing the resident an opportunity to answer the door. (2) Eleven years later, however, the Court held in Hudson v. Michigan (3) that any evidence obtained through a violation of the "knock-and-announce" rule pursuant to a warranted search should not be suppressed under the exclusionary rule. (4) Recently, in United States v. Weaver, (5) the D.C. Circuit limited Hudson's application to the search-warrant context, holding that the exclusionary rule does apply to knock-and-announce violations that occur in the execution of arrest warrants. (6) In arriving at its conclusion, the D.C. Circuit departed from Hudson in distinguishing between search and arrest warrants--a distinction based on a new protected interest under the knock-and-announce rule. But, even accepting these doctrinal developments, the court may have overstated the causal connection between the violation and the evidence obtained.

In 2008, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) began investigating Michael Weaver; they found marijuana in the trash outside his residence and received information that Weaver had been selling drugs for over a year. (7) The agents obtained a warrant to search Weaver's residence and found over 500 grams of marijuana in addition to $38,000 in cash and drug packaging materials. (8) With this evidence, ATF obtained a warrant for Weaver's arrest in 2010, and prosecutors indicted him on fifty-two separate counts. (9) Agents were unable to locate Weaver until they found his new residence in 2012. (10) Upon arriving, the agents knocked twice, but no one answered. (11) Within a minute of knocking, the agents announced "police" and attempted to enter the apartment with a key they had received from the building's concierge. (12) At no time did they inform Weaver that they had an arrest warrant. (13) Weaver resisted their attempt to enter, but the officers eventually forced their way in and arrested him. (14) During the arrest, the agents smelled marijuana and saw bags of the drug sitting in the kitchen. (15) From these observations, the agents obtained a warrant to search the apartment and found several kilograms of marijuana as well as other drugs and cash. (16) The government charged Weaver with three additional counts: two counts of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possession with intent to distribute. (17)

At trial, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied Weaver's motion to suppress the evidence seized from his apartment in 2012. (18) First, the court found that, because the agents had knocked and said "police" before entering, there had been no knock-and-announce violation. (19) Second, the court held that even if there were a violation, Hudson prevented the application of the exclusionary rule. (20) A jury then found Weaver guilty of possession with intent to distribute marijuana. (21) Weaver appealed the district court's denial of his motion to suppress. (22)

The D.C. Circuit reversed. Writing for the panel, Judge Pillard (23) held both that the officers clearly violated the knock-and-announce rule and that the exclusionary rule is the proper remedy for knock-and-announce violations occurring during the execution of an arrest warrant. (24) The court stated that the agents failed to comply with the knock-and-announce rule because, as the government conceded on appeal, they "fail[ed] to announce their purpose before entering. …

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