South Carolina Supreme Court Says Cops Aren't Getting Any No-Knock Warrants Anytime Soon

from the no-knock,-no-warrant dept

Earlier this year, Louisville (KY) police officers killed an unarmed woman during a no-knock drug raid. Breonna Taylor was killed after her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, opened fire on SWAT officers Walker believed were criminals entering their home. The officers claimed they had announced their presence before entering. A 911 call placed by Walker — a licensed gun owner — indicated no warning had been given.

“I don’t know what happened … somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend…”

This completely preventable tragedy again prompted discussions of no-knock warrants and their use by law enforcement. This latest killing continued the long narrative of violent actions by drug task forces, who supposedly avail themselves of no-knock raids to increase the safety of officers and occupants. But all no-knock raids seem to do is increase the chance officers will provoke a violent reaction they can use to justify the killing of anyone on the premises. The raid that killed Breonna Taylor was a complete failure. The suspect being sought wasn’t in the house and no drugs were found.

A few small reform efforts targeting the use of no-knock warrants have been made. The Houston Police Department had no choice but to rewrite its rules after a no-knock raid ended with two citizens dead, five officers wounded, and two of those officers hit with multiple criminal charges.

A judge in South Carolina has taken it upon himself to step up and address the huge problem local law enforcement apparently isn’t quite ready to confront.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Beatty late Friday afternoon ordered state judges and magistrates to stop issuing “no-knock” search warrants to police.


Beatty’s order said that the majority of state search warrants in South Carolina are issued by magistrates, the lowest rank of judicial authority. But a recent survey, Beatty wrote, revealed that “most (magistrates) do not understand the gravity of no-knock warrants and do not discern the heightened requirements for issuing a no-knock warrant.”

It’s not a ban. It’s a moratorium. But it should decrease the chances someone in South Carolina will be needlessly killed by overzealous drug warriors. The short order issued by Judge Beatty says no no-knocks warrants will be approved until there are some clear ground rules in place.

IT IS ORDERED that a moratorium upon the issuance of no-knock warrants by all circuit and summary court judges of this state take effect immediately and remain in effect until instruction is provided to circuit and summary court judges statewide as to the criteria to be used to determine whether a requested no-knock warrant should be issued. This instruction will be provided by the South Carolina Judicial Branch.

It also points out that judges have been handling these requests carelessly. And this carelessness is killing people.

It further appears that no-knock search warrants are routinely issued upon request without further inquiry. In recognition of the dangers that the execution of no-knock warrants present to law enforcement and members of the public, and in order to ensure that these warrants are issued based upon the proper constitutional and statutory criteria,

I FIND it necessary to address the issuance of no-knock search warrants by circuit and summary court judges statewide.

It has been addressed. No-knocks are no-go in South Carolina until further notice. Cops will just have to do warrant service the old fashioned way — one that appears to be far less dangerous than the supposedly “safer” option.

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Comments on “South Carolina Supreme Court Says Cops Aren't Getting Any No-Knock Warrants Anytime Soon”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I disagree. The police here suggest the occupants might commit suicide with a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head when they announce themselves. I believe the survival rate of a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head is lower then being shot by the police centre mass because most are not great at aiming. Hence it is safer for the occupants when there is a no-knock raid.

I have to add that the information above is totally made up just like most no-knock raid warrants.

Coffee U says:

One of the ground rules

These future ground rules will need to make clear that it is perjury for officers to attest to false facts to get around the "clear ground rules" , and make it clear that if prosecutors refuse to go after any and every officer perjuring themselves that the no knocks will stop again.

In many of the no knock warrants that have made it to tech dirt, it’s not just a magistrate signing with a brief read, but usually there’s many lies in the warrant requests.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: One of the ground rules

…falsifying evidence should indicate the thin blue line has been crossed, and police protections are null and void. You can argue that an officer didn’t know of a law’s existence. You can’t argue that the officer didn’t know that false attestations and planting evidence was wrong.

tom (profile) says:

Any judge that signs a no-knock warrant that results in injuries or death(s) should have to go through an administrative review much as police do after a shooting. Questions like did the judge query the police as to why the no-knock was needed? Is the information leading to the warrant corroborated by a 2nd source?

For that matter, perhaps there should be a periodic review of all warrants a judge signs. How many resulted in good arrests and prosecutions? How many resulted in evidence being tossed due to bad warrant or poor execution?

If judges start being held accountable for their actions, maybe they will pay more attention to what they are being asked to approve.

Anonymous Coward says:

Having read about a guy sleeping in his bed. Another No-Knock warrant. Busting the door down, rushing into the house, waking the guy up who is half awake. Police rush into the bedroom, think he’s reaching for something and shoot him dead. There was no gun. In fact it was the wrong house!!!! Nothing happened to those pigs. An innocent person, sleeping, murdered by the police!!!! How low can you go?

Upstream (profile) says:

It's a start, but . . .

Let’s see what the "ground rules," are.
Let’s see how "clear" the ground rules are.
Let’s see how transparent the system is.
Let’s see what sort of accountability is put in place.
Let’s see how the accountability is enforced.
And let’s see how effective the resulting system is in actually reducing the incidence of no-knock warrants, which really should be extremely rare.

Then let’s remember this is South Carolina we’re talking about, so the end result, when the battering rams hit the doors, is likely to be something like "Ain’t none o’ that gonna make a bit o’ diff’rence! Not in this county! No suh!"

jimb (profile) says:

Make all the 'rules' you want...

Go ahead. Make all the ‘rules’ you want. If the police keep stonewalling any investigations, turning off body cams, planting evidence, and telling lies to get warrants – even when it is against ‘the rules’, who is going to enforce it? Try to fire a cop for misbehavior up to, and including the death of those they are sworn "to protect and serve". The police union will show up, protesting all the way. Scaremongering politicians will gin up support on a "law and order" platform that’s really all about scaring people into voting for them. "Who guards us from the guardians?" is right where we are now. Who, indeed?

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Is there still such a thing as a "knock" warrant?

It was news a couple years back that a [knock and announce] ( warrant had its announce requirement fulfilled by an officer on the side of the house breaking a glass window and shouting Open up! Police! before the rope-troopers blasted their way in with breach charges and flashbangs.

So this may only change the name of no-knock warrants to respectful surprise-entry.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Ah, here we go...

In Hudson v. Michigan (2006), the divided Supreme Court ruled that a violation of the knock-and-announce rule does not require the suppression of evidence using the exclusionary rule.Wikipedia

So South Carolina law enforcement can still blast their way into a house with a warrant other than no-knock, and still get all the evidence.

So this is unlikely to slow down the flashbangs.

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