Virginia Governor Signs Ban on No-Knock Warrants

By: - October 28, 2020 12:00 am

A peaceful crowd attends the Black Lives Matter 757 Peace Rally and memorial at Fort Monroe in June in Hampton, Virginia. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam signed a series of measures that will change policing policy including a ban on no-knock warrants. Annette Holloway/Icon Sportswire via The Associated Press

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, has signed a new law that will ban no-knock search warrants.

Virginia joins two states — Florida and Oregon — and at least 13 local governments or police departments that have banned the warrants or restricted their use in response to the killing of Breonna Taylor.

Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was fatally shot during a police raid on her Louisville, Kentucky, home in March.

Police obtained a no-knock warrant, which allows law enforcement to enter a home without notice to anyone inside, to search her apartment on suspicion that someone else kept drugs there. Although police say they knocked and identified themselves, Taylor’s boyfriend said he didn’t hear that and thought they were intruders. He shot an officer; police fired in return and hit Taylor.

The Virginia measure also requires law enforcement officers to get permission from a judge to conduct a warrant at night. It passed earlier in October mostly along party lines in the Democratic-controlled Senate and House. The law will go into effect March 1, according to Alena Yarmosky, a spokesperson for Northam.

Lawmakers in at least nine other states have introduced or pre-filed legislation to ban or restrict the warrants.

Some lawmakers and police groups oppose banning no-knock warrants, saying they are useful in dangerous situations. And some criminal justice experts caution that banning the practice doesn’t take into account possible loopholes.

Along with the no-knock warrant ban, Northam signed other bills into law to change policing in Virginia, including reducing the use of military equipment, limiting use of neck restraints and requiring officers to intervene if they see another officer using excessive force.

“Too many families, in Virginia and across our nation, live in fear of being hurt or killed by police,” Northam said in a news release.

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Lindsey Van Ness
Lindsey Van Ness

Lindsey Van Ness is an assistant production editor and staff writer for Stateline. Previously Lindsey reported on public safety issues at LNP and LancasterOnline in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.