The killing of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor by Louisville, Kentucky, police in March 2020 has cast a national spotlight on the law enforcement tactic of no-knock warrants, leading to a few states considering a ban on the practice.
Taylor, who was Black and a medical worker, became one of the symbols for the Black Lives Matter movement and police reform after officers burst through her front door in a late-night raid at her home on suspicion that another person was keeping drugs in the apartment.
Serving search warrants in California
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” Before serving a search warrant in California, officers must announce their presence under the “knock and announce” rule, which aims to keep them from entering people’s homes without a warning. However, there are exceptions to this rule:
- The warrant is served in a public setting
- The resident has already given consent to the police
- “Exigent” circumstances exist
What does “exigent” mean?
Police and prosecutors try to justify violations of the “knock and announce” rule in several different ways and many courts typically give them wide latitude. The main arguments for these unannounced “no-knock” raids include:
- The suspects will attempt to destroy evidence
- Given a warning, occupants will arm themselves
- Suspects will attempt to flee from officers
Another gray area concerns what constitutes a “reasonable amount of time” that the police must wait after announcing their presence before entering a person’s home. Courts again consider several factors, including the case’s circumstances, the type of building entered and the time of day the warrant was served.
How can a defense attorney protect you from unreasonable searches?
An experienced San Diego criminal defense lawyer will protect your constitutional rights against unlawful searches and seizures. A knowledgeable lawyer can convince courts to disallow evidence that was obtained by officers during illegal searches. In many cases, this will lead to charges being dropped from a lack of evidence before the case can go to trial.
An experienced attorney can also challenge the validity of a warrant being issued in the first place when it was obtained from a judge under false pretenses or as a result of bogus information supplied by police or others. Your attorney will also challenge warrants issued based on information provided by a confidential informant.