Are No-Knock Warrants Warranted?

Noah Sussman, Staff Writer

“No-knock warrants,” they can be useful, they can be dangerous. A no-knock warrant was a policy created during the 1970’s under President Nixon, and really took off in the 1980’s with the “war on drugs.” A no-knock warrant is exactly that…officers breach a house or other location that is listed on a warrant without announcing their purpose or presence. The No-Knock warrant is permitted in 49 of our 50 states. No-knock warrants are usually only used if a high profile criminal is tracked and located. 

There are obviously reasons for a no-knock warrant. A judge may issue a no-knock warrant for the police to prevent the destruction of evidence or catch a wanted person by surprise so they couldn’t arm themselves. So, while there may be good reasons for no-knock warrants, the outcome of a no-knock warrant can be good or bad. 

On March 13th of 2021, officers entered the house of emergency room technician, Breonna Taylor using a no-knock warrant. They believed that her ex-boyfriend, who was a suspected drug dealer, was having packages sent to Ms. Taylor’s home.

When police broke in, Ms. Taylor and her current boyfriend were asleep. They heard banging on the door and called out to see who it was and they were afraid it was Ms. Taylor’s ex-boyfriend. The door burst open and Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend, Ken Walker, opened fire with his gun. Police fired back into the room without knowing who they were shooting at and hit Ms. Taylor five times.  She eventually died. 

Now, from the officer’s perspective when someone shoots at you, you will open fire regardless of who it is. Looking at it from the residents perspective, if you hear your door bash open and there’s no one yelling, “Police!” and you are armed, you will most likely leap up with your weapon. Who was at fault here? While the police were not charged in Ms. Taylor’s death, it seems that it wouldn’t have happened if the police had announced their presence. 

As mentioned earlier, officers need to have intel on their suspect. A no-knock warrant is something where if you mess up at the slightest it can go terribly wrong. If the person isn’t home, another member of their household or even a pet, could attack the officer. Someone they know may think there are intruders and attack officers entering the location unannounced. 

In the past there have been multiple situations when burglars and other criminals entered a house impersonating police officers and claimed they were “repossessing” objects but were really stealing them.

While we can see some practical uses for no-knock warrants, we have to wonder if the good outweighs the bad.