No-knock warrants are a staple of the failed war on drugs. They allow officers to enter homes without announcing themselves and turn communities of color into warzones. These needless encounters often end with loss of life or substantial bodily injury.

Photo by Ken Lund / flikr

The name Breonna Taylor galvanized nationwide protests for racial justice after she was brutally and senselessly killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police during the execution of a no-knock warrant. Breonna Taylor was a vibrant and ambitious young woman whose loved ones referred to her as, “(caring), ‘super goofy’ and a devoted paramedic.” She “was a daughter, a godmother, a niece” who dreamed of becoming a nurse in a neonatal or trauma unit.

Breonna Taylor’s death is yet another tragic example of police killing a Black person with near impunity. No-knock warrants are a staple of this unjust system and the failed war on drugs. They turn communities of color into warzones by allowing officers to enter homes without announcing themselves, typically for the purpose of obtaining evidence of a crime involving a controlled substance. These needless encounters often end with loss of life or substantial bodily injury.

We have to make sure this never happens in Nevada.

Nevada's Attorney General submitted legislation, Senate Bill 50, to update the state's policies on no-knock warrants, and the ACLU of Nevada — in consultation with individuals impacted by police violence — negotiated in good faith to develop a strong amendment adding new requirements and restrictions to ensure no-knock warrants can only be requested by police in the most extreme circumstances. 

We stand with our colleagues in Kentucky and throughout the country seeking a nationwide ban on no-knock warrants. Despite our support for the amended language on SB50, we maintain our position that an outright ban should be the public policy of this state. We are unconvinced that circumstances arise where law enforcement requires the ability to execute a warrant without first announcing themselves. The case law is clear that law enforcement only needs to wait between 15 and 30 seconds before entering on a standard warrant under certain circumstances. 

Also, few jurisdictions in Nevada permit no-knock warrants. In fact, the Washoe County Sheriff’s office has already moved to ban no-knocks warrants entirely. Finally, while it is difficult to find records for our Southern Nevada jurisdictions, through public records requests and general conversations it is clear no-knock warrants are rarely issued in the state.

However, the amended language aligns with our overarching goal of creating uniform laws and standards for policing in our state. More importantly, it will substantially limit the use of no-knock warrants and provide safeguards to ensure that what happened to Breonna Taylor does not happen in Nevada.

Specifically, the amendment:  

  • Requires that a court shall not issues a no-knock warrant unless there is probable cause establishing that the suspect has “committed a felony that involves a significant and imminent threat to public safety”;
  • Creates a high threshold to justify why a no-knock warrant is necessary, including a requirement to certify why “no less invasive method is sufficient” to detain a suspect or search a premises;
  • Delineates the manner for executing the warrant which requires that the officers announce themselves as soon as practicable after entering the premises, that they use only the force reasonable and necessary to effectuate forcible entry, and that the executing officer wear a body-worn camera; and
  • Provides for the exclusion of evidence in a criminal trial when such evidence is obtained in violation of the protocols set forth in this legislation.

Breonna Taylor’s family will never receive the justice they deserve. A grand jury indicted the officer responsible for the shots accidentally fired in the neighboring apartment, but not for the shots that killed her.

The nation and our state have a long way to go to correct inequities throughout the entire criminal legal system. SB50 as amended is an incremental step toward preventing future injustices. We hope Nevada will play a pivotal role in completely reimagining policing in the United States and that one day we will finally have justice for Breonna Taylor.