Knock and announce rule – an element of reasonableness inquiry under 4th Amendment? | Wilson v. AR

The common-law knock and announce principle forms a part of the Fourth Amendment reasonableness inquiry.

Although the common law generally protected a man’s house as “his castle of defence and asylum,” 3 W. Blackstone, Commentaries *288 (hereinafter Blackstone), common-law courts long have held that “when the King is party, the sheriff (if the doors be not open) may break the party’s house, either to arrest him, or to do other execution of the K[ing]’s process, if otherwise he cannot enter.” Semayne’s Case, 5 Co. Rep. 91a, 91b, 77 Eng. Rep. 194, 195 (K. B. 1603). To this rule, however, common-law courts appended an important qualification:

“But before he breaks it, he ought to signify the cause of his coming, and to make request to open doors … , for the law without a default in the owner abhors the destruction or breaking of any house (which is for the habitation and safety of man) by which great damage and inconvenience might ensue to the party, when no default is in him; for perhaps he did not know of the process, of which, if he had notice, it is to be presumed that he would obey it …. ” Ibid., 77 Eng. Rep., at 195-196.

Our own cases have acknowledged that the common-law principle of announcement is “embedded in Anglo-American law,” Miller v. United States, 357 U. S. 301, 313 (1958), but we have never squarely held that this principle is an element of the reasonableness inquiry under the Fourth Amendment.3 We now so hold.

Full Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U.S. 927 (1995) opinion here:

Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
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