A no-knock warrant gives law enforcement permission to execute a warrant without notifying the resident or people on the premises of their presence beforehand. This often means they physically break down the door and enter the premises, usually with guns drawn. Unsurprisingly, these scenarios often lead to violence, injuries and even deaths.
Even before restrictions were added to no-knock warrants, they were only intended for use in very specific circumstances:
- The people on the property were in possession of evidence they could attempt to destroy if law enforcement knocked and announced themselves prior to executing the search warrant.
- There was reason to believe the people subject to the warrant were armed criminals who may use violence against officers attempting to execute the search warrant.
What Has Made No-Knock Warrants So Controversial?
Many people find the ability of police to break down a door and enter a home with no warning and with guns drawn to be a fundamentally illiberal violation of people’s rights to privacy and safety. Even when police and prosecutors suspect criminal activity, people are still entitled to fair treatment under the law.
Two particularly high-profile tragedies (one of which occurred right here in Minneapolis) led to a serious national discussion on these fundamentally violent warrants: the deaths of Amir Locke and Breonna Taylor.
Breonna Taylor was caught in the crossfire when law enforcement with a no-knock warrant burst into her home. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was armed and shot at the plain clothed officer who forced entry into the home, hitting him in the leg. The officers outside the home returned fire, at which point Breonna Taylor was shot six times and died. There were no drugs or cash on the property and subsequent investigations into the incident called into question the appropriateness of the warrant.
The Amir Locke tragedy occurred here in Minneapolis. Locke was sleeping on a couch in his cousin’s apartment. His cousin was the subject of the no-knock warrant executed by the Minneapolis Police Department. Police kicked the couch on which Locke was sleeping seconds after entering the apartment. Locke sat up while holding a gun (his finger wasn’t on the trigger). He was shot and killed within 10 seconds of police entering the apartment, leading to local and national outrage.
Changes to No-Knock Warrants in the U.S., Minneapolis and Minnesota
There have been federal and Minnesota state changes to no-knock warrants in the wake of recent high-profile tragedies. In September 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice specifically limited no-knock warrants to situations where there is a threat of physical violence for the law enforcement officials implementing the warrant.
Minneapolis is one of the cities in the country that implemented more specific and targeted restrictions on the warrants. As of April 8, 2023, no-knock warrants are entirely banned in the city of Minneapolis.
The state of Minnesota has not taken the same step, although lawmakers are making efforts to limit the specific scenarios in which no-knock warrants can be utilized.
Specifically, new legislation would limit the issuance of no-knock warrants to scenarios in which the judge believes law enforcement officers would face an imminent threat of death or injury if they announced their presence prior to entering the premises listed in the warrant.
Starting in 2021, Minnesota began requiring law enforcement agencies to precisely track the frequency of no-knock warrant usage, although the requirement didn’t go into effect early enough to get a full years’ worth of data. According to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) report for 2022 (the first full year of reporting):
- There were 185 no-knock warrant requests from law enforcement
- 179 no-knock warrants were issued
- Only 158 of those warrants were executed
- Of those 158, only 63 were executed with no-knock entry
- The evidence being sought by law enforcement was discovered in all but 10 of those warrant executions
Although records for 2021 were not complete, we do have tracking from the last third of the year. A total of 132 no-knock warrants were requested and 129 issued in the last four months of 2021, suggesting the total for the year was far higher than those requested by law enforcement in 2022.
Are You Facing Criminal Charges in Minneapolis–St. Paul or Do You Believe Your Rights Were Violated by Law Enforcement?
The referral counselors at the Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Service (MNLRIS) helps people in all types of situations secure experienced legal representation. Whether you’re facing criminal charges or believe your rights were violated during a search, we can connect you with an experienced attorney who can help you. Call us at 612-752-6699 to speak with a referral counselor.