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Sabbath v. United States


A narcotics carrier was intercepted at the border and agreed to make a controlled delivery to the home of the defendant. The carrier entered the defendant’s apartment and gave the agents the pre-set signal. Without a warrant, agents knocked on the door, received no response, and opened the door. They entered, arrested the defendant and found narcotics.


Whether federal agents are required to conform with 18 U.S.C. § 3109 when making a warrantless entry to make an arrest?


Yes. Agents are required to announce their purpose and identity when making a warrantless entry to make an arrest.


The government had no basis for assuming the defendant was armed or might resist arrest, or that the cooperating carrier was in any danger. The officers made no independent investigation of the defendant prior to setting the stage for his arrest with narcotics in his possession. Therefore, the officers had to comply with § 3109 (requiring the announcement of presence and notice of authority or purpose before the agents may break down any door). The Court identified the opening of a closed but unlocked door, lifting a latch, turning a door knob, unhooking a chain, pushing open a hasp, or pushing open a closed door of entrance to a house, even a closed screen door, as a “breaking” with respect to § 3109.


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

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