States throughout the country are considering revising laws regarding no-knock warrants in response to public outrage after the Breonna Taylor case. The case brought national attention to these legal tools after enforcement officers shot and killed a 26-year-old woman in her home. There are conflicting reports as to whether the police announced their presence before conducting the failed drug raid. Regardless, the case has triggered debate over the use of no-knock warrants throughout the country.
Here in Wisconsin, lawmakers have debated everything from a proposal to study the use of no-knock search warrants in the state to a bill that would prohibit municipalities from acting on their own to ban no-knock warrants, like the recent ban in Milwaukee at the end of 2021.
These debates are valuable, as they draw attention to areas of our system that may need reform. Those who are interested in or directly impacted by this topic can benefit from a basic understanding of the issue. It helps to know more about no-knock warrants as well as the fundamentals of both sides of the argument.
What are no-knock warrants?
These warrants allow officers to enter property without providing notification or announcing their presence. Enforcement officers do not have to wait for someone within the property to open the door. They can forcibly enter and execute the terms of the warrant — which may include looking for a suspect and evidence of criminal activity.
What are the pros of these warrants?
Those in favor of no-knock warrants argue they help protect enforcement officers and preserve evidence. They state that if the occupants are aware of their presence, they are more likely to attempt to flea the scene or destroy important evidence. By entering the premises unannounced, proponents believe enforcement officers are more likely to succeed in reducing these risks.
What are the cons?
Not surprisingly, there are risks when a group of strangers forcibly enter a home without warning and start shouting at the occupants. This can lead the civilians within the property to act out as if a trespasser has invaded their home, putting both the police officers executing the warrant and the civilians in the home at risk of serious injury and death.
What is the future of no-knock warrants in Wisconsin?
The question is evolving, and we will provide updates as they become available. The fact that the debate is ongoing highlights the complexity of criminal defense cases. Those who are facing charges for drug offenses or other crimes as a result of evidence gathered during the execution of a warrant like the no-knock warrant discussed above are wise to seek legal counsel to discuss their options.