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KY Lawmakers Push for Statewide Ban on No-Knock Search Warrants

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Supporters built a memorial in downtown Louisville, Ky. for Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by police during a no-knock raid in March 2020. (Wikimedia Commons).
Supporters built a memorial in downtown Louisville, Ky. for Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by police during a no-knock raid in March 2020. (Wikimedia Commons).
December 31, 2020

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- After the killing of Breonna Taylor by Louisville police, some states have moved to ban no-knock search warrants, and Kentucky could soon do the same.

This month, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed Breonna's Law into effect. Pennsylvania and Tennessee are considering similar moves. Florida and Oregon have already banned no-knock search warrants.

Keturah Herron, policy strategist for the ACLU of Kentucky, said no-knock warrants often conflict with existing laws that allow for self-defense in a home intrusion.

She added law-enforcement protocols for obtaining a no-knock search warrant are murky and can, in some cases, be unconstitutional.

"I think that one of the biggest things that people haven't really been talking about is the actual warrant process, and what it takes to get a warrant," Herron explained. "We know that the warrant in Breonna Taylor's case was over 30 days old. Then we also know on the warrant application, it's hard or difficult, and sometimes, you can't even read the signature of the judges."

Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, is the primary sponsor of Breonna's Law, a bill that would end no-knock search warrants in the Commonwealth. It's already a city ordinance in Louisville, as of earlier this year.

No-knock search warrants started in the 1980s' "War on Drugs," when police nationwide launched a campaign of drug busts and raids. It's estimated between 20,000 and 50,000 no-knock raids occur each year in the U.S.

Scott said many communities see unannounced raids as dangerous.

"And since I filed the bill back in August, I've been contacted from folks in Appalachia, to rural western Kentucky, saying, 'Thank you. We need more people to pay attention to what sheriffs in this part of Kentucky are doing to residents,'" Scott remarked.

Scott pointed to a recent survey of Republicans across the country, which found 52% support ending no-knock warrants.

"So this is an issue about taking care of people and keeping people safe," Scott argued. "I look forward to the session beginning in January 2021, and my Republican colleagues stepping up and signing on as co-sponsors to Breonna's Law, so that we can keep all of our neighbors safe."

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, also has filed legislation, the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act, which would ban no-knock search warrants at the federal level.

Disclosure: ACLU of Kentucky contributes to our fund for reporting on Criminal Justice, Immigrant Issues, Reproductive Health, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY