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SABBATH V. UNITED STATES, 391 U. S. 585 (1968)

U.S. Supreme Court

Sabbath v. United States, 391 U.S. 585 (1968)

Sabbath v. United States

No. 898

Argued May 2, 1968

Decided June 3, 1968

391 U.S. 585


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."


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. 391 U. S. 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. 391 U. S. 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. 391 U. S. 591.

380 F.2d 108, reversed and remanded.

Page 391 U. S. 586

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