Virginia House Rejects Senate’s Changes to ‘No Knock’ Bill

By Brian Carlton

October 8, 2020

House members unanimously opposed changes by a 96-0 vote.

RICHMOND-The bill banning no knock warrants still needs some work. That was the response from the Virginia House Wednesday, where members unanimously rejected the Senate version of HB5099

“The language that matched HB5099 that we passed takes a bit of a different approach,” Del. Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg) told House members Wednesday. “[Their version] leaves out some of the language that we passed that codifies the best practice of providing a copy of the search warrant.” 

Both versions of the bill ban the entire “no knock” practice. Law enforcement officers would have to clearly state who they are and why they’re outside. That means giving their name and the agency they work for. Officers also have to make it clear they have a search warrant before entering the building. But after that, there are a few differences. The House version required a 30-second delay after announcing, before you enter the home. It also requires police to give a copy of the warrant to the owner of the home. If the house is empty, then a copy of the warrant should be attached to the door. The Senate version, meanwhile, puts a time constraint on the warrant. It says warrants could only be served between 8 am and 5 pm. That’s unless a judge approves otherwise. 

Now both sides agree if officers don’t follow the procedures outlined in the bill, then any evidence seized will be declared inadmissible. Very clearly, the bill states “any evidence obtained from a search warrant in violation of this subsection shall not be admitted into evidence for the Commonwealth in any prosecution.”

Where did ‘no knock’ come from? 

In most cases, law enforcement officers have to announce their presence before entering. The Supreme Court made this clear in the 1958 case Miller vs. United States. But the federal government stepped in and made an exception in the 1970s, arguing that “an earlier version of the “24-hour drug search” statute, 21 U.S.C. § 879, had expressly authorized the issuance and use of warrants authorizing officers to break open doors and outer windows without prior announcement of authority or purpose in certain searches for illegal drugs.” That quote comes from a paper written in 2002 by Patrick Philbin, then the Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the US Department of Justice. By 1974, however, Congress scrapped the practice. Senators repealed it through an amendment to an appropriations bill. 

The no knock concept didn’t stay dead for long, as Congress revived it in the 1980s as part of the war on drugs. While it’s hard to trace all cases from the ‘80s until now, a look at records from 1999 to 2020 show 16 controversial events involving no knock warrants and at least 40 deaths, including police and civilians. The most recent happened in Louisville on March 13 of this year, when police shot and killed Breonna Taylor in her home. Believing the officers were intruders, Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker opened fire. The officers fired over 20 shots and hit Taylor eight times. 

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