By Michael Maharrey | The Tenth Amendment Center
Late last month, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill into law that bans “no-knock” warrants and nullifies the impact of several Supreme Court opinions in practice and effect.
Del. Dan Helmer (D-Fairfax) introduced House Bill 5099 (HB5099) on Aug. 20. The new law prohibits any Virginia law-enforcement officer from seeking, executing, or participating in the execution of a no-knock search warrant. Under the law, all search warrants must be executed by an officer “recognizable and identifiable as a uniformed law-enforcement officer.”
Police must provide “audible notice” of their authority and purpose “reasonably expected to be heard by occupants of such place to be searched prior to the execution of such search warrant.”
All warrants must be executed during the day, “unless (i) a judge or magistrate, if a judge is not available, authorizes the execution of such search warrant at another time for good cause shown.” The new law also requires officers to provide a copy of the warrant to the owner or occupant of the place after the search is complete.
Any evidence gathered in violation of the law will be inadmissible in court.
Nullifying the Supreme Court
Passage of HB5099 effectively nullifies and make irrelevant Supreme Court opinions that give police across the U.S. legal cover for conducting no-knock raids.
In the 1995 case Wilson v. Arkansas, the Supreme Court established that police must peacefully knock, announce their presence, and allow time for the occupants to open the door before entering a home to serve a warrant. But the Court allowed for “exigent circumstance” exceptions if police fear violence, if the suspect is a flight risk, or if officers fear the suspect will destroy evidence.
As journalist Radley Balko notes, police utilized this exception to the fullest extent, “simply declaring in search warrant affidavits that all drug dealers are a threat to dispose of evidence, flee or assault the officers at the door.”