No-Knock Search Warrants: The Officer’s Perspective

When considering the use of no-knock search warrants, the requesting officer’s perspective may be different from the perspective of their agency’s administration. The real question is: Should there exist a difference in perspective or should energies be spent in ensuring that all reasonable perspectives are considered in deciding to use no-knock search warrants? In answering this question, we must consider the rewards or benefits, and potential negatives associated with utilizing no-knock warrants.

No-Knock Search Warrants: Advantages & Disadvantages

The officer’s perspective is often wrapped around the main advantage associated with the no-knock warrants: the element of surprise. This key advantage allows officers to enter a location without knocking or announcing their presence to anyone inside the location which is the subject of the search. This surprise tactic is used with the intent of keeping the suspect from arming themselves, from fleeing, or from destroying or concealing contraband items. Such a surprise entry is most often utilized in narcotics enforcement.

Sometimes in fulfilling their duty to aggressively enforce the laws against the possession, sale and distribution of narcotics, or other illegal activity, officers often diminish the potential dangers because the probable cause required to obtain a no-knock warrant is often based upon information from a confidential informant. The information is subject to skepticism centering upon the informant’s veracity. One can never be 100% certain that the informant’s information is completely correct and not stemming from some self-serving motives.

Another concern centers around the safety of the officers executing the no-knock search warrant and the safety of possible individuals inside the subject location. Current news reports show incidents where officers, as well as suspects and innocent bystanders, have been injured or killed while no-knock search warrants were executed.

Further, the potential liabilities associated with no-knock warrants must be considered as there have been multi-million-dollar law suit awards for wrongful deaths and property destruction associated with the execution of similar type search warrants conducted improperly, based upon false or faulty probable cause, or executed on the wrong location. These types of results bring unnecessary criticism and public scrutiny upon the executing officers and their law enforcement agencies.

No-Knock Warrants Are Under Closer Scrutiny than Ever

It has become best practices for agencies to review and revamp their policies and procedures concerning no-knock warrants search warrants, where necessary. Some agencies are disallowing the use of no-knock warrants entirely while others are requiring upper level supervision review and participation in no-knock warrant execution.

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