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Kentucky bill would ban standalone no-knock search warrants

Metro Council previously passed Breonna's Law banning no-knock search warrants in Louisville this June.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Standalone no-knock search warrants could be a thing of the past in Kentucky under a new bill that is being drafted by Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers.

“There is not a place in law enforcement for a no-knock search warrant,” Stivers, R.-District 25, said.

Stivers said under this bill, the police raid that killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville on March 13 would not have been allowed to move forward.

“A no-knock warrant at 1 o’clock at night, that’s bad news. A no-knock warrant in general is not good,” Stivers said. “It’s unsafe for the people there. It devalues people’s right to privacy and the sanctity of your home and it puts police officers at risk.”

Stiver’s bill would ban no-knock search warrants in the state with certain exceptions, which include situations where there is a threat to life, like a hostage situation or with an arrest warrant.

The bill would set parameters and guidelines as to when a no-knock warrant be able to be obtained as a secondary warrant and how they should be conducted. It would also codify certain consequences for police officers who do not follow these rules when executing one of these warrants, which could range from suppression of the evidence collected, liability for the police organizations employing the officers, and banning officers from seeking other employment in law enforcement at another department in the state of Kentucky.

“If there is gross or wanton negligence or willful misconduct, the qualified immunity of the officer would be waived and they could be held personally liable,” Stivers said.

In the wake of the deaths of Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of police officers, many around the country have called for an end to qualified immunity for all officers, but Stivers would not go that far. He said the bill would lay out the specific circumstances of when an officer would lose their qualified immunity, but said he would not eliminating it across the board.

“I don’t know if you want to go that far because some people act in good faith and people make mistakes,” he said. “I don’t think anybody up here is going to tell you that they have the market cornered on perfection, but where it is so gross, so wanton, so willful, I think you have to have a review of that.”

The Louisville Metro Council passed Breonna’s Law, which banned no-knock warrants in the Louisville Metro area. This bill would expand that through the state of Kentucky.

“Right now in Louisville, it just affects Louisville Metro Police Department, so by passing this legislation, it will cover the entire county and the entire state,” Louisville Metro Council President David James said. “And so I think it will save police officer lives and citizen lives.”

The bill is still in its early stages, but Stivers said it is an important first step that has already received a lot of support from both Senate Republicans and Democrats, including those with law enforcement backgrounds.

“There may be agreement,” he said. “There may be disagreement. The biggest thing is the dialogue is starting and this is the first step.”

“One of the reasons I think there is consensus on this issue is because for a lot of people, this is a civil liberty issue,” Sen. John Schickel, R.-District 11, said. “It’s an order issue, it’s a civil liberty issue and it’s also a safety issue.”

Schickel, a former law enforcement officer, said he is in favor of this bill, which he said will help protect both citizens and law enforcement officers.

“I always thought that there is a need for better regulations if search warrants because the right to be secure in your homes is a fundamental right in the Bill of Rights that we hold sacred in both the Kentucky constitution and the United States Constitution,” he said.

“We have a ‘castle doctrine’ in Kentucky and the no-knock warrant is in direct contradiction to that,” Sen. Gerald Neal, D.-District 33, said. “The fact of the matter is that is probably the last place that an individual has. In the olden days, it was sacrosanct. Now it’s been eroded by some of the methods that we’ve used, not that it’s ill-intended, but because we employ these tools and human beings and processes and institutions that are trying to carry out what they think is their responsibility.”

Sen. Danny Carroll, R.-District 2, said he is still unsure about banning standalone no-knock search warrants and wanted to help find the balance between protecting law enforcement and citizens. He did say he does support a higher level of proof before obtaining a warrant.

“There are times if you’re working a homicide case that you may have a probable cause to believe a weapon is in a residence,” he said.

Stivers said this bill will hopefully also be the start of a dialogue about other issues concerning policing, such as de-escalation tactics.

RELATED: Breonna's Law bans no-knock warrants and sets guidelines for how search warrants are executed

RELATED: Breonna's Law signed by Louisville Mayor, no-knock warrants are now banned from being used by LMPD

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