Bill To Limit 'No-Knock Warrants' Clears Senate Committee, But Could Face Trouble

Mar 5, 2015

The Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee passed the no-knock warrant bill over the objection of bill sponsor, Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro.
Credit Michelle Wirth / WABE

Judges and police departments could soon have to think more carefully about whether they should allow officers to bust into someone’s home unannounced. A Senate bill that seeks to prevent the abuse of no-knock warrants got approval from a Senate committee yesterday.

The committee approved a version of the bill that would raise the current standard judges use when deciding whether to grant a no-knock warrant. The decision came after the members heard from Attorney Mawuli Mel Davis and others who spoke for and against the bill.

Davis represents the family of a toddler who was nearly killed last May when a Habersham County swat team burst into his home at 2 a.m. During the botched drug raid, police threw a flash bang grenade into the toddler’s crib.

This week, Davis told committee members police need more training, and it should be harder to get a no-knock warrant.

“From our perspective we just would like to see something that restricts how this done, when it is done,” Davis says.

The legislation requires police to adopt policies and procedures for no-knock warrants, including more training.

Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, says police also must demonstrate “probable cause” when seeking the warrants.

“They have to have a good idea that there’s a crime being committed, that evidence would be damaged or that their lives would be in danger. It can’t just be maybe,” Fort says.

Prosecutors don’t like that change. They say the new standard is too high because police can’t predict the future.

The bill’s original author Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, doesn’t like it either, which could hurt the bill’s chances of passing in the Senate.

The bill would also require  police departments to go before a grand jury after using a no-knock warrant. Police would have provide a report about how things went to those that sit on the grand jury.

Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, says the move would ensure no-knock warrants are only granted when they’re absolutely necessary.

“It doesn’t mean there’s going to be some inquisition, but if the grand jury hears a couple of these reports, or even one, that makes them think ‘We have a problem in our community’ then they have the right, and they’re the right people to speak up and say 'There’s a problem here,’” Bethel says.

Bethel says it’s likely there will be fewer no-knock warrants issued as a result. The bill now advances to the full Senate.