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In the US, a no knock warrant is a warrant issued by a judge that allows law enforcement officers to enter a property without knocking and without identifying themselves as police. It is issued under the belief that any evidence they hope to find can be destroyed during the time that police identify themselves and the time they secure the area.

The Department of Justice writes:

Federal judges and magistrates may lawfully and constitutionally issue "no-knock" warrants where circumstances justify a no-knock entry, and federal law enforcement officers may lawfully apply for such warrants under such circumstances. Although officers need not take affirmative steps to make an independent re-verification of the circumstances already recognized by a magistrate in issuing a no-knock warrant, such a warrant does not entitle officers to disregard reliable information clearly negating the existence of exigent circumstances when they actually receive such information before execution of the warrant.

The number of no-knock raids has increased from 3,000 in 1981 to more than 50,000 in 2005, according to Peter Kraska, a criminologist at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky [1]. Raids that lead to deaths of innocents are increasingly common(ref?); since the early 1980s, 40 bystanders have been killed, according to the Cato Institute in Washington, DC.[1]

Contents

Controversy

No knock warrants have been controversial for various reasons. Some consider them to be unconstitutional(who?). In addition, there have been cases where burglars have robbed homes by pretending to be officers with a no knock warrant. In many cases, armed homeowners, believing that they are being invaded, have shot at officers, resulting in deaths on both sides.

Some have proposed using defenses against no knock raids, such as steel reinforcements. These can prevent the door from being quickly breached and delay the forced entry for long enough such that the homeowner can identify the officers, but this is ineffective if the officers have breaching rounds.

Examples

  • Kathryn Johnston (c1914-2006) was an elderly Atlanta, Georgia woman shot by three undercover police officers in her home on November 21, 2006 after she fired one shot at the ceiling, assuming her home was being invaded. While the officers were wounded by friendly fire, none of the officers received life threatening injuries, but Johnston was killed by their gunfire.[1]
  • Fifteen former Los Angeles Police Department officers have plead guilty to running a robbery ring, which used fake no-knock raids as a ruse to catch victims off guard. The defendants would then steal cash and drugs to sell on the street. This tactic led Radley Balko, editor of Reason Magazine, to complain "So not only can you not be sure the people banging down your door at night are the police, not only can you not be sure they’re the police even if they say they’re the police, you can’t even be sure it’s safe to let them in even if they are the police."[2][3][4]
  • Tracy Ingle was shot in his house five times during a no-knock raid in North Little Rock, Arkansas. After the police entered the house Tracy thought armed robbers had entered the house and intended to scare them away with a non-working gun. The police expected to find drugs, but none were found. He was brought to the intensive care, but police pulled him out of intensive care for questioning, after which they arrested him and charged him with assault on the officers who shot him.[5][6]
  • Ismael Mena, a Mexican immigrant, was shot and killed by SWAT team officers in Denver, Colorado who were performing a no-knock raid that was approved by a judge acting on false information contained in a search warrant. The police believed there to be drugs in the house, but no drugs were found on the premises, and it was later revealed that the address given to the SWAT team by officer Joseph Bini was the wrong one. Jefferson County District Attorney Dave Thomas investigated the matter and cleared the officers involved with the raid on the grounds that Mena had pointed a gun and fired it at SWAT officers, although who fired first remains unknown. However, many have objected to the investigation's findings due to inconsistencies in the various officer's account of what happened. The American Civil Liberties Union, and others, have objected to the Denver Police Department's request for a no-knock raid and the Judge's decision to allow such a raid on the grounds that they failed to meet the criteria necessary for a no-knock raid.[7]

See also

References

External links

Further reading

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