Petitioner, William Miller, together with Bessie Byrd and her brother, Arthur R. Shepherd, was tried and convicted in the District Court for the District of Columbia for conspiracy to commit violations, and violations, of the federal narcotics laws. 26 U. S. C. (Supp. V) § 4704 (a), 21 U. S. C. § 174, 18 U. S. C. § 371. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed, one judge dissenting, 100 U. S. App. D. C. 302, 244 F.2d 750. We granted certiorari, 353 U.S. 957, to determine whether evidence seized at the time of petitioner's arrest was properly admitted against the petitioner. The evidence was $100 of marked currency which was seized by the federal officers who arrested the petitioner and Bessie Byrd at their apartment.
On March 25, 1955, at 1:35 a. m., Clifford Reed was arrested, under an arrest warrant, on a Washington, D. C., street on suspicion of narcotics offenses. Reed revealed to Wilson, a federal narcotics agent, that he purchased heroin in 100-capsule quantities from the petitioner through Shepherd. Agent Wilson knew of the petitioner as one who had trafficked in narcotics and had been convicted for a narcotics offense in 1953. Reed said that he was to meet Shepherd later that morning to make a purchase. Agent Wilson enlisted his aid to apprehend Shepherd and the petitioner. About 3 a. m. another federal narcotics agent, Lewis, carrying $100 of marked currency, went with Reed in a taxicab to Shepherd's home. Reed introduced Lewis to Shepherd as a buyer. Shepherd accepted the $100 and agreed to secure 100 capsules of heroin from the petitioner and deliver them to Lewis at Reed's apartment. Shepherd proceeded alone in the taxicab to the petitioner's apartment.
The federal officers returned immediately to the apartment building. About 3:45 a. m. agent Wilson and officer Wurms went to the door of the petitioner's apartment. Officer Wurms knocked and, upon the inquiry from within—"Who's there?"—replied in a low voice, "Police." The petitioner opened the door on an attached door chain and asked what the officers were doing there. Before either responded, he attempted to close the door. Thereupon, according to officer Wurms, "we put our hands inside the door and pulled and ripped the chain off,
Bessie Byrd was also arrested in the apartment and turned over the cash she had in her housecoat. The cash included $34 of the marked currency. After an extended search the remaining $66 of marked currency was found, some in a hatbox in a closet, and the rest within the covers of a bed in the bedroom.
The Government contends that there was probable cause for arresting the petitioner and that the marked currency
The lawfulness of the arrest of petitioner depends upon the power of the arresting officers to "break" the doors of a home in order to arrest without warrant persons suspected of having committed narcotics offenses. Agent Wilson did not have statutory authority to arrest without a warrant although officer Wurms, as a member of the Metropolitan Police Department, did have such authority.
In making reference to that law we are mindful of our policy of not interfering with local rules of law fashioned by the courts of the District of Columbia. Fisher v. United States, 328 U.S. 463, 476; Griffin v. United States, 336 U.S. 704, 715. But the Government agrees with petitioner that the validity of the entry to execute the arrest without warrant must be tested by criteria identical with those embodied in 18 U. S. C. § 3109, which deals with entry to execute a search warrant.
From earliest days, the common law drastically limited the authority of law officers to break the door of a house
But the common law recognized some authority in law officers to break the door of a dwelling to arrest for felony. The common-law authorities differ, however, as to the circumstances in which this was the case. Hawkins says: "where one lies under a probable Suspicion only, and is not indicted, it seems the better Opinion at this Day, That no one can justify the Breaking open Doors in Order to
Whatever the circumstances under which breaking a door to arrest for felony might be lawful, however, the breaking was unlawful where the officer failed first to state his authority and purpose for demanding admission. The requirement was pronounced in 1603 in Semayne's Case, 5 Co. Rep. 91a, 11 E. R. C. 629, 77 Eng. Repr. 194, at 195: "In all cases where 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. But before he breaks it, he ought to signify the cause of his coming, and to make request to open doors . . . ." (Emphasis supplied.)
The requirement stated in Semayne's Case still obtains. It is reflected in 18 U. S. C. § 3109, in the statutes of a large number of States,
But whether the unqualified requirements of the rule admit of an exception justifying noncompliance in exigent circumstances is not a question we are called upon to decide in this case. The Government makes no claim here of the existence of circumstances excusing compliance. The Government concedes that compliance was required but argues that "compliance is evident from the events immediately preceding the officers' forced entry."
The rule seems to require notice in the form of an express announcement by the officers of their purpose for demanding admission. The burden of making an express announcement is certainly slight. A few more words by
The single fact known to the officers upon which the Government relies is the "split-second" occurrence in which the petitioner evinced "instantaneous resistance to their entry," an "almost instinctive attempt to bar their entry after they [the officers] had identified themselves as police . . . ." It is argued that this occurrence "certainly points up that he knew their purpose immediately. . . [and], at once, realized that he had been detected and that the officers were there to arrest him";
But, first, the fact that petitioner attempted to close the door did not of itself prove that he knew their purpose to arrest him. It was an ambiguous act. It could have been merely the expected reaction of any citizen having this experience at that hour of the morning, particularly since it does not appear that the officers were in uniform, cf. Accarino v. United States, supra, 85 U. S. App. D. C., at 403, 17 F. 2d, at 465, and the answer "Police" was spoken "in a low voice" and might not have been heard by the petitioner so far as the officers could tell.
Second, petitioner's reaction upon opening the door could only have created doubt in the officers' minds that he knew they were police intent on arresting him. On the motion to suppress, agent Wilson testified that "he wanted to know what we were doing there." This query, which went unanswered, is on its face inconsistent with knowledge. The majority of the Court of Appeals denied the import of the query by inferring that Miller knew Wilson and Wurms personally and recognized them as soon as he opened the door. That inference has no support in the record.
We are duly mindful of the reliance that society must place for achieving law and order upon the enforcing agencies of the criminal law. But insistence on observance by law officers of traditional fair procedural requirements is, from the long point of view, best calculated to contribute to that end. However much in a particular case insistence upon such rules may appear as a technicality that inures to the benefit of a guilty person, the history of the criminal law proves that tolerance of shortcut methods in law enforcement impairs its enduring effectiveness. 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, has declared in § 3109 the reverence of the law for the individual's right of privacy in his house.
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN concurs in the result.
MR. JUSTICE CLARK, with whom MR. JUSTICE BURTON concurs, dissenting.
I agree that a requirement of prior notice of authority and purpose should not be given a "grudging" application. But by the same token it should not be reduced to an absurdity. A majority of the Court of Appeals has concluded that petitioner, at the time the police entered his apartment, "already fully understood who the officers were and that they sought to arrest him." 100 U. S. App. D. C. 302, 310, 244 F.2d 750, 758. The entry, therefore, was held valid under District of Columbia law.
The Court attempts to justify interference in local law by what it terms a "concession" of the Government that validity of the entry must be tested by a federal statute relating to forcible entry to execute a search warrant.
The facts on which the Court of Appeals found the entry valid were these: Officers trailed Shepherd as he proceeded by taxicab to purchase heroin for Lewis, a narcotics agent. Shepherd went to the apartment occupied by his sister, Mrs. Byrd, and by petitioner. The officers saw him enter the apartment building. Agent Wilson followed him to the basement entrance and saw him disappear down a lighted hall about "as long as the jury box." Other than the entrance, there were only two
The opinion of the Court of Appeals graphically described the subsequent events:
This summary is amply supported by the evidence. Wilson testified that petitioner previously met him when he was an agent with the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. He also knew petitioner in connection with a narcotics case. Officer Wurms testified that he too knew petitioner officially.
At a pretrial hearing petitioner moved to suppress the marked currency, alleging that the officers had neither warrant nor probable cause for arrest. This motion was denied. At trial before a jury and a different judge the motion was renewed. In denying the motion, the judge said, "I will give you the right to make another motion. You certainly have a right at the end of the testimony." Petitioner never availed himself of this opportunity.
On appeal petitioner shifted his ground, emphasizing that even if the officers had probable cause to arrest him, such authority was improperly exercised because they did not formally announce their purpose before entry. The Court of Appeals held:
The court agreed with the trial judge "that the attempt of the officers to arrest Miller at his doorway under the circumstances of this case was not unreasonable," and found
The majority, however, brushes aside these conclusions, explaining petitioner's action in slamming the door as "the expected reaction of any citizen." This is something entirely foreign to my concept of the respect a law-abiding citizenry pays to its law-enforcement officers. Nor can I accept the conclusion of the Court that the circumstances found by the Court of Appeals fall "short of a virtual certainty that the petitioner knew of [the officers'] purpose to arrest him." His knowledge—in the absence of an express admission by him—can never be a "virtual certainty." Rather than attempting to psycho-analyze petitioner, we should measure his understanding by his outward acts. The Court of Appeals found that they indisputably established petitioner's awareness of the police purpose. We should not disturb that finding.
The majority does not deal with the "exigent circumstances" of the case because the Government makes no claim for thus "excusing compliance" with the statute. It is to be noted, however, that the Court of Appeals expressly based its opinion on the fact that the officers "were confronted by the need for a decision arising from the necessitous circumstances of the situation." The position of the Government does not excuse us from evaluating the circumstances of the whole case. I believe that the Court of Appeals was eminently correct in its conclusion that "necessitous circumstances" here warranted the officers in entering the apartment. As that court pointed out, petitioner might have fled or hidden
I would affirm the judgment on the basis of the District of Columbia rule in Accarino, supra, which I believe this Court should honor.
"The Witness: Agent Wilson and I were at the front door of the apartment No. 1, 1337 Columbia Road. I knocked on the front door. I said—somebody asked, `Who's there?' I said, `Blue' [the petitioner's nickname]—in a low voice, I said `Police.'
"I repeated it two or three times, in that manner.
"The door opened. There was a chain on the door. Blue Miller saw me, Agent Wilson, and I don't know who else he saw but he tried to close the door and at that time we put out hands inside the door and pulled and ripped the chain off, and entered."
"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."
The petitioner does not raise a question of the application of D. C. Code, 1951, § 4-141. See also § 4-145.
"Right of officer to break into building. An officer, in order to make an arrest either by virtue of a warrant, or when authorized to make such arrest for a felony without a warrant, as provided in section 21, may break open a door or window of any building in which the person to be arrested is or is reasonably believed to be, if he is refused admittance after he has announced his authority and purpose."
In discussing the local rule, Judge Prettyman in Accarino quoted with approval from Wilgus, Arrest Without a Warrant, 22 Mich. L. Rev. 798, 802: "Before doors are broken, there must be a necessity for so doing, and notice of the authority and purpose to make the arrest must be given and a demand and refusal of admission must be made, unless this is already understood, or the peril would be increased." (Emphasis added.) 85 U. S. App. D. C., at 401, 179 F. 2d, at 463. The Court of Appeals in the instant case recognized this language as the embodiment of the local rule, 100 U. S. App. D. C., at 309, 244 F. 2d, at 757, and in finding that petitioner "already fully understood who the officers were and that they sought to arrest him," 100 U. S. App. D. C., at 310, 244 F. 2d, at 758, applied that rule in affirming the conviction.
This Court now concludes that the rule "judicially developed" in the District is "substantially identical" to 18 U. S. C. § 3109, which concerns entry to execute a search warrant. It is important to note, however, that certain language, set out in italics above, is peculiar to the local "judicially developed" rule. The latter is not respected in the interpretation of § 3109 by the Court today.
In Griffin v. United States, 336 U.S. 704 (1949), the Court determined that there was no "federal rule" on the issue in the case. But it added that even if there were such a rule, it would not necessarily control in the District of Columbia: "This Court, in its decisions, and Congress, in its enactment of statutes, have often recognized the appropriateness of one rule for the District and another for other jurisdictions so far as they are subject to federal law." Id., at 712. The Court noted that it was the "special function" of the Court of Appeals to decide questions of local law. "Only in exceptional cases will this Court review a determination of such a question by the Court of Appeals for the District." Id., at 718.