Criminal Justice

Should no-knock warrants be banned?

The death of Breonna Taylor in a no-knock raid shook the United States and had many advocating for the removal of this law enforcement practice

Rise of the Issue

The death of 26-year old Breonna Taylor became worldwide news in 2020 when she was shot and killed by police officers executing a no-knock warrant. While some argue that no-knock entries should be banned to prevent tragedies like this from happening again, others worry this would take the sometimes much needed element of surprise away from law enforcement.

At least dozens have died after no-knock entries, though there is no national database that keeps track of the results of all no-knock warrants. When 22-year-old Amir Locke died after a no knock entry this year, it encouraged congress to draft a bill restricting the use of such warrants.

Issue Timeline

1789

Fourth Amendment is Adopted

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects Americans against the government unreasonably searching their home or their person.

1963 - 1997

Supreme Court Allows No-Knock Raids

The Supreme Court first allows law enforcement officers to enter premises without announcing their presence in Ker v California and further clarifies the exceptions to knock-and-announce requirements Wilson v Arkansas (1995) and Richard v Wisconsin (1997).

June 2021

Oregon Bans No-Knock Raids

Oregon becomes the first state to stop the use of no-knock entries without exceptions.

September 2021

DOJ Announces Restrictions on No-Knock Entries

Law enforcement overseen by the Department of Justice, such as the FBI and DEA, are no longer allowed to use no-knock entries unless the use of deadly force has been authorized.

May 2022

Executive Order Limits No-Knock Warrants

President Biden’s order restricts the use of no knock entries to ‘a limited set of circumstances, such as when an announced entry would pose an imminent threat of physical violence.’

Micro Issues

A.

Risk of Injury or Death

Opponents say no-knock warrants are necessary if there is a significant risk of injury or death to law enforcement, occupants or others in the neighborhood; supporters argue that it is the no-knock entries that carry a greater risk of severe or deadly outcomes.

B.

Preservation of Evidence

While one side justifies no-knock entries to prevent suspects from destroying evidence, the other side does not believe the amount of contraband found during these raids is enough to defend the danger and breach of privacy that no-knock entries create.

C.

Covert Racism

Supporters believe no-knock warrants disproportionately affect ethnic minorities, while opponents deny that no-knock raids are executed based on racial motivations.

Pro Arguments

1.

No-knock raids can have severe and even fatal outcomes.

Although there is no national database recording the outcomes of no-knock warrants, there have been notable reports of serious injuries and deaths during no-knock raids.

2.

SWAT teams do not recover contraband in the majority of cases.

According to one study, SWAT teams only found weapons in 1 out of 3 cases and found no contraband whatsoever in 65% of raids.

3.

No-knock warrants disproportionately affect people of color.

More than half of people affected by no-knock raids are from ethnic minorities, with the majority of them being black.

4.

No-knock warrants were not created for drug raids.

While initially intended for active shooters or hostage situations, research has found 62% of no-knock warrants are now used for drug searches.

5.

No-knock entries could heighten the risk of violence against law enforcement.

Having law enforcement enter homes unannounced puts officers at risk of being harmed by inhabitants who believe they are acting in self-defense.

Con Arguments

1.

No-knock warrants could help protect the safety of law enforcement.

Some believe that not making their presence known could protect officers from unnecessarily getting hurt by criminals who retaliate.

2.

No-knock warrants help preserve evidence.

It prevents evidence such as drug stashes from being destroyed between the time that the officers announce themselves and are welcomed in.

3.

No-knock warrants prevent suspects from fleeing.

If the suspect does not know the officers are coming in, they do not have time to run.

4.

The majority of no-knock warrants do not lead to excessive violence against suspects.

While recent events have made deaths and serious injuries after no-knock raids very visible, the majority do not end that way.

5.

No-knock entries prevent third parties from getting injured.

The element of surprise prevents potential suspects from arming themselves, making it less likely that third parties will be caught in the crossfire.