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Sabbath v. United States

U.S.
Jun 3, 1968
391 U.S. 585 (1968)

Summary

holding that the criteria in § 3109 apply to warrantless entries

Summary of this case from Trent v. Wade

Opinion

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.

No. 898.

Argued May 2, 1968. Decided June 3, 1968.

One Jones was apprehended crossing the border from Mexico with cocaine, allegedly given to him by, and to be delivered to, "Johnny" in Los Angeles. Customs officers arranged for Jones to make delivery. Shortly after Jones entered "Johnny's" apartment, customs agents, without a warrant, knocked on the door, waited a few seconds, and, receiving no response, opened the unlocked door and entered. They arrested petitioner, searched the apartment, and found the cocaine and other items. The cocaine was introduced over objection at petitioner's trial for knowingly importing and concealing narcotics, and he was convicted. The Court of Appeals held that the agents did not "break open" the door within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 3109, which provides in part that an "officer may break open any outer or inner door or window of a house . . . 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," and that they were therefore not required to make a prior announcement of "authority and purpose." Held:

1. The validity of an entry of a federal officer to effect a warrantless arrest "must be tested by criteria identical to those embodied in" 18 U.S.C. § 3109, which deals with an entry to execute a search warrant. Miller v. United States, 357 U.S. 301; Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471. Pp. 588-589.

2. Section 3109, a codification of the common-law rule of announcement, basically proscribes an unannounced intrusion into a dwelling, which includes opening a closed but unlocked door. Pp. 589-591.

3. Whether or not exigent circumstances would excuse compliance with § 3109, here there were none, as the agents had no basis for assuming petitioner was armed or that he might resist arrest, or that Jones was in danger. P. 591.

380 F.2d 108, reversed and remanded.

Murray H. Bring, by appointment of the Court, 390 U.S. 935, argued the cause and filed briefs for petitioner. John S. Martin, Jr., argued the cause for the United States. On the brief were Solicitor General Griswold, Assistant Attorney General Vinson, Beatrice Rosenberg, and Kirby W. Patterson.


The issue in this case is whether petitioner's arrest was invalid because federal officers opened the closed but unlocked door of petitioner's apartment and entered in order to arrest him without first announcing their identity and purpose. We hold that the method of entry vitiated the arrest and therefore that evidence seized in the subsequent search incident thereto should not have been admitted at petitioner's trial.

On February 19, 1966, one William Jones was detained at the border between California and Mexico by United States customs agents, who found in his possession an ounce of cocaine. After some questioning, Jones told the agents that he had been given the narcotics in Tijuana, Mexico, by a person named "Johnny," whom he had accompanied there from Los Angeles. He said he was to transport the narcotics to "Johnny" in the latter city.

Also found in Jones' possession was a card on which was written the name "Johnny" and a Los Angeles telephone number. On the following day at about 3 p. m., Jones made a call to the telephone number listed on the card; a customs agent dialed the number, and with Jones' permission, listened to the ensuing conversation. A male voice answered the call, and Jones addressed the man as "Johnny." Jones said he was in San Diego, and still had "his thing." The man asked Jones if he had "any trouble getting through the line." Jones replied that he had not. Jones inquired whether "Johnny" planned to remain at home, and upon receiving an affirmative answer, indicated that he was on his way to Los Angeles, and would go to the man's apartment.

At about 7:30 that evening, the customs agents went with Jones to an apartment building in Los Angeles. The agents returned to Jones the cocaine they had seized from him, and placed a small broadcasting device on him. The agents waited outside the building, listening on a receiving apparatus. Jones knocked on the apartment door; a woman answered. Jones asked if "Johnny" was in, and was told to wait a minute. Steps were heard and then a man asked Jones something about "getting through the line." Because of noise from a phonograph in the apartment, reception from the broadcasting device on Jones' person was poor, but agents did hear the word "package."

The customs agents waited outside for five to 10 minutes, and then proceeded to the apartment door. One knocked, waited a few seconds, and, receiving no response, opened the unlocked door, and entered the apartment with his gun drawn. Other agents followed, at least one of whom also had his gun drawn. They saw petitioner sitting on a couch, in the process of withdrawing his hand from under the adjacent cushion. After placing petitioner under arrest, an agent found the package of cocaine under the cushion, and subsequently other items ( e.g., small pieces of tin foil) were found in the apartment; officers testified at trial they were adapted to packaging narcotics.

Petitioner and Jones were indicted for knowingly importing the cocaine into this country and concealing it, in violation of § 2 of the Narcotic Drugs Import and Export Act, as amended, 35 Stat. 614, 21 U.S.C. § 173 and 174. Petitioner was tried alone. The narcotics seized at petitioner's apartment were admitted into evidence, over objection. On appeal, following the conviction, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the officers, in effecting entry to petitioner's apartment by opening the closed but unlocked door, did not "break open" the door within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 3109 and therefore were not required by that statute to make a prior announcement of "authority and purpose." 380 F.2d 108. We granted certiorari, 389 U.S. 1003 (1967), to consider the somewhat uncomplicated but nonetheless significant issue of whether the agents' entry was consonant with federal law. We hold that it was not, and therefore reverse.

The Government contends in this Court that petitioner did not adequately raise at trial the issue of the agents' manner of entry, and therefore that it did not have sufficient opportunity to indicate the full circumstances surrounding the entry and petitioner's arrest. However, petitioner's trial counsel, in the course of objecting, clearly stated there were no facts "sufficient to justify this officer's breaking into" the apartment, and his objection was truncated by a ruling of the trial judge. In any event, the Government met the issue on the merits in the Court of Appeals, and apparently did not there contend the record was inadequate for its resolution; and the Court of Appeals decided the issue on the merits. In these circumstances, we are justified in likewise doing so.

The statute here involved, 18 U.S.C. § 3109, deals with the entry of federal officers into a dwelling in terms only in regard to the execution of a search warrant. This Court has held, however, that the validity of such an entry of a federal officer to effect an arrest without a warrant "must be tested by criteria identical with those embodied in" that statute. Miller v. United States, 357 U.S. 301, 306 (1958); Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 482-484 (1963). We therefore agree with the parties and with the court below that we must look to § 3109 as controlling.

"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."

See also, e.g., Ng Pui Yu v. United States, 352 F.2d 626, 631 (C.A. 9th Cir. 1965); Gatlin v. United States, 117 U.S.App.D.C. 123, 130, 326 F.2d 666, 673 (C.A. D.C. Cir. 1963); United States v. Cruz, 265 F. Supp. 15, 21 (W. D. Tex. 1967).

In Miller v. United States, supra, the common-law background to § 3109 was extensively examined. The Court there concluded, id., at 313:

See also Ker v. California, 374 U.S. 23, 47-59 (1963) (opinion of BRENNAN, J.).

"The requirement of prior notice of authority and purpose before forcing entry into a home is deeply rooted in our heritage and should not be given grudging application. Congress, codifying a tradition embedded in Anglo-American law, had declared in § 3109 the reverence of the law for the individual's right of privacy in his house."

It was also noted, id., at 313, n. 12, that another facet of the rule of announcement was, generally, to safeguard officers, who might be mistaken, upon an unannounced intrusion into a home, for someone with no right to be there. See also McDonald v. United States, 335 U.S. 451, 460-461 (concurring opinion).

Considering the purposes of § 3109, it would indeed be a "grudging application" to hold, as the Government urges, that the use of "force" is an indispensable element of the statute. To be sure, the statute uses the phrase "break open" and that connotes some use of force. But linguistic analysis seldom is adequate when a statute is designed to incorporate fundamental values and the ongoing development of the common law. Thus, the California Supreme Court has recently interpreted the common-law rule of announcement codified in a state statute identical in relevant terms to § 3109 to apply to an entry by police through a closed but unlocked door. People v. Rosales, 68 Cal.2d 299, 437 P.2d 489 (1968). And it has been held that § 3109 applies to entries effected by the use of a passkey, which requires no more force than does the turning of a doorknob. An unannounced intrusion into a dwelling — what § 3109 basically proscribes — is no less an unannounced intrusion whether officers break down a door, force open a chain lock on a partially open door, open a locked door by use of a passkey, or, as here, open a closed but unlocked door. The protection afforded by, and the values inherent in, § 3109 must be "governed by something more than the fortuitous circumstance of an unlocked door." Keiningham v. United States, 109 U.S.App.D.C. 272, 276, 287 F.2d 126, 130 (1960).

While distinctions are obvious, a useful analogy is nonetheless afforded by the common and case law development of the law of burglary: a forcible entry has generally been eliminated as an element of that crime under statutes using the word "break," or similar words. See R. Perkins, Criminal Law 149-150 (1957); J. Michael H. Wechsler, Criminal Law and Its Administration 367-382 (1940); Note, A Rationale of the Law of Burglary, 51 Col. L. Rev. 1009, 1012-1015 (1951). Commentators on the law of arrest have Page 590 viewed the development of that body of law as similar. See H. Voorhees, Law of Arrest §§ 159, 172-173 (1904); Wilgus, Arrest Without a Warrant, 22 Mich. L. Rev. 798, 806 (1924):
"What constitutes `breaking' seems to be the same as in burglary: lifting a latch, turning a door knob, unhooking a chain or hasp, removing a prop to, or pushing open, a closed door of entrance to the house, — even a closed screen door . . . is a breaking. . . ." (Footnotes omitted.)
See generally Blakey, The Rule of Announcement and Unlawful Entry, 112 U. Pa. L. Rev. 499 (1964).

See, e.g., Munoz v. United States, 325 F.2d 23, 26 (C.A. 9th Cir. 1963); United States v. Sims, 231 F. Supp. 251, 254 (D.C. Md. 1964); cf. People v. Stephens, 249 Cal.App.2d 113, 57 Cal.Rptr. 66 (1967). See also Ker v. California, 374 U.S., at 38.

We do not deal here with entries obtained by ruse, which have been viewed as involving no "breaking." See, e.g., Smith v. United States, 357 F.2d 486, 488 n. 1 (C.A. 5th Cir. 1966); Leahy v. United States, 272 F.2d 487, 489 (C.A. 9th Cir. 1959). See also Wilgus, n. 5, supra, at 806.

The Government seeks to invoke an exception to the rule of announcement, contending that the agents' lack of compliance with the statute is excused because an announcement might have endangered the informant Jones or the officers themselves. See, e.g., Gilbert v. United States, 366 F.2d 923, 931 (C.A. 9th Cir. 1966), cert. denied, 388 U.S. 922 (1967); cf. Ker v. California, 374 U.S. 23, 39-40 (1963) (opinion of Clark, J.); id., at 47 (opinion of BRENNAN, J.). However, whether or not "exigent circumstances," Miller v. United States, supra, at 309, would excuse compliance with § 3109, this record does not reveal any substantial basis for excusing the failure of the agents here to announce their authority and purpose. The agents had no basis for assuming petitioner was armed or might resist arrest, or that Jones was in any danger. Nor, as to the former, did the agents make any independent investigation of petitioner prior to setting the stage for his arrest with the narcotics in his possession.

Exceptions to any possible constitutional rule relating to announcement and entry have been recognized, see Ker v. California, supra, at 47 (opinion of BRENNAN, J.), and there is little reason why those limited exceptions might not also apply to § 3109, since they existed at common law, of which the statute is a codification. See generally Blakey, n. 5, supra.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Reversed and remanded.

MR. JUSTICE BLACK dissents.


Summaries of

Sabbath v. United States

U.S.
Jun 3, 1968
391 U.S. 585 (1968)

holding that the criteria in § 3109 apply to warrantless entries

Summary of this case from Trent v. Wade

holding that the criteria in § 3109 apply to warrantless entries

Summary of this case from Trent v. Wade

holding that opening of closed but unlocked door by police officers constituted "breaking" under § 3109

Summary of this case from Leaf v. Shelnutt

holding that because officers entered without a proper knock and announcement, the subsequent arrest was invalid and the evidence seized in the subsequent search was inadmissible

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holding under § 3901 that because officers entered without knocking and announcing, the subsequent arrest was invalid and the evidence seized inadmissible

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holding officers' illegal entry under § 3109 to arrest defendant required suppression of evidence seized in search incident to arrest

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holding that the exceptions to the common law knock-and-announce rule also applied to 18 U.S.C. § 3109 "since they existed at common law, of which the statute is a codification"

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holding under the federal knock-and-announce statute that because officers entered without knocking and announcing, the subsequent arrest was invalid and the evidence seized inadmissible

Summary of this case from Price v. State

suppressing evidence seized in violation of federal statutory knock-and-announce requirement

Summary of this case from Hudson v. Michigan

In Sabbath the Government did make such a claim, but because the record did "not reveal any substantial basis for the failure of the agents... to announce their authority" we did not decide the question.

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In Sabbath, 391 U.S. at 589, 88 S.Ct. 1755, the Court discussed whether the phrase "break open" as used in § 3109 requires the use of force.

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construing the phrase "break open" in the federal knock and announce statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3109, to include opening a closed but unlocked door

Summary of this case from Green v. Butler

stating that "there is little reason why" common law exceptions to announcement and entry rules would not also apply to the statutory embodiment of those rules, "since they existed at common law, of which the statute is a codification"

Summary of this case from Grassmueck v. American Shorthorn Ass'n

In Sabbath, the Supreme Court noted that "[w]hile distinctions are obvious, a useful analogy is nonetheless afforded by the common and case law development of the law of burglary: a forcible entry has generally been eliminated as an element of that crime under statutes using the word `break,' or similar words.

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Alejandro

In Sabbath, the Supreme Court, holding that entry into a residence by opening a closed but unlocked door violated section 3109, Sabbath, 391 U.S. at 589-91, 88 S.Ct. 1755, offered some guidance as to the definition of "break[ing]."

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Alejandro

noting that section 3109 "is designed to incorporate fundamental values and the ongoing development of the common law"

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Alejandro

construing 18 U.S.C. § 3109

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Mealy

In Sabbath v. United States, 391 U.S. 585, 590, 88 S.Ct. 1755, 1758, 20 L.Ed.2d 828 (1968), a case which involved an interpretation of the federal notice statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3109, the Court noted the "values inherent in" the notice requirement, values that center around the individual's interest in privacy and security from government intrusion.

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Nates

In Sabbath v. United States, 391 U.S. at 591, 88 S.Ct. at 1759, for example, the Supreme Court found there was no peril when "[t]he agent had no basis for assuming [the inhabitant] was armed or might resist arrest."

Summary of this case from United States v. Kane

In Sabbath v. United States, 391 U.S. 585, 88 S.Ct. 1755, 20 L.Ed.2d 828 (1968) the court made clear that police or agents must announce their purpose and authority before making their way into a dwelling.

Summary of this case from United States v. Coffman

In Sabbath the Court did, however, expressly point out that entries obtained by ruse have been viewed as involving no "breaking". 391 U.S. at 590 n. 7, 88 S.Ct. 1755, citing, e. g., Smith v. United States, 5 Cir. 1966, 357 F.2d 486, 488 n. 1; see also, United States v. DeFeis, 5 Cir. 1976, 530 F.2d 14, cert. den.

Summary of this case from United States v. Dohm

In Sabbath v. United States, 391 U.S. 585, 590 n. 7, 88 S.Ct. 1755, 1758, 20 L.Ed.2d 828 (1968), the Court held that 18 U.S.C. § 3109 proscribes an unannounced intrusion into a dwelling by opening a closed but unlocked door, but did "not deal * * * with entries obtained by ruse, which have been viewed as involving no `breaking.'" Citing Smith v. United States, 357 F.2d 486, 488 n. 1 (5th Cir. 1966); Leahy v. United States, 272 F.2d 487, 489 (9th Cir. 1959), cert. dismissed, 364 U.S. 945, 81 S.Ct. 465, 5 L.Ed.2d 459 (1961).

Summary of this case from United States v. Raines

In Sabbath, Jones did not participate in the arrest or seizure, nor was he authorized to do so. He was merely the defendant's unfaithful cohort whose temporary role as "agent" involved nothing more than being a stool pigeon.

Summary of this case from United States v. Glassel

In Sabbath, Mr. Justice Marshall took note of the various means of entry found violative of § 3109, and said: "And it has been held that § 3109 applies to entries effected by the use of a passkey, which requires no more force than does the turning of a doorknob.

Summary of this case from United States v. Lopez

In Sabbath, the agents had merely knocked, without revealing their identity, and entered the unlocked apartment within a few seconds. It was not ever clear that the knock had been heard.

Summary of this case from United States v. Manning
Case details for

Sabbath v. United States

Case Details

Full title:SABBATH v . UNITED STATES

Court:U.S.

Date published: Jun 3, 1968

Citations

391 U.S. 585 (1968)
88 S. Ct. 1755

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