Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How will these changes save lives?
As illustrated on our map of the human costs associated with search warrants, the practice of military-style warrant executions has led to trauma, injuries, and many deaths of innocent people, subjects, and officers, alike. By creating a more rigorous application process, ensuring law enforcement intelligence is accurate, and prescribing the warrant execution requirements, we can prevent this widespread and unnecessary damage. Additionally, by increasing officer accountability measures, those who are wrongly harmed in warrant executions are more likely to see justice served in cases of botched warrant executions.
What can I do to help?
Contact your legislators now and demand they adopt the model legislation to:
- Ban No-Knock Warrants
- Restrict the Issuance and Execution for All Types of Warrants
- Increase Accountability and Transparency
What does the federal ban proposed in the Justice in Policing Act do relative to this?
The Justice in Policing Act (sec. 362) prohibits police departments from receiving COPS office funding if they do not require officers to knock and announce their presence before executing a search warrant in drug cases. Additionally, the JUSTICE Act proposes to collect data for how often No-Knock warrants are issued and the Senate’s “Justice for Breonna Taylor” Act would require officers to announce their presence before executing a warrant. However, these proposals would not change the policies of all 18,000 US police departments and would not end the practice of officers, with guns drawn, ramming doors to break into a person's home. Moreover, data collection alone will not stop the practice of No-Knock raids. The real issue is that all search warrants enable officers to use these military-style tactics. The Campaign Zero legislation focuses on closing loopholes that allow officers to manipulate search warrants, attacks the underlying motivation for raids, and holds officers accountable for their misconduct.
Why is it that so many things have to be in the legislation in order for the practice to end?
Currently, there are almost no restrictions placed on the execution of search warrants. National studies have shown that judges often approve these warrants in approximately 3 minutes1. This is unacceptable. Campaign Zero’s comprehensive checklist of necessary legislative pieces aims to close any loopholes that police have utilized to evade accountability.
1 Van Duizend, Richard. (1986) The Search Warrant Process: Preconceptions, Perceptions, Practices.
Why doesn’t banning no-knock warrants ban all no-knock raids?
There are two types of search warrants -- no-knock and “knock and announce.” Knock and announce search warrants are more easily approved than no-knock warrants. In practice, knock and announce warrants can end up being executed like a no-knock warrant (i.e. ramming the door, throwing flashbangs, drawing guns, etc) if the police feel as though it’s necessary. So, the only way to ban the practice of no-knock raids is to both ban no-knock warrants and heavily restrict the issuance and execution of all search warrants.
What is a “Quick-Knock” warrant?
A Quick-Knock is the term used to describe the practice of executing a Knock and Announce warrant with a dynamic, forced entry.
Why a “30 second wait time” before officers either leave or proceed with a forcible entry?
There are several reasons why a minimum of 30 seconds is important:
- Allowing anything less than 30 seconds assumes that the person inside does not intend to open the door, whereas 30 seconds is a reasonable amount of time for someone to reach the door from any part of the house in most homes. That said, 30 seconds would likely be too short during a nighttime raid, which underscores the need for warrants to be executed during hours of visible light.
- Waiting a minimum of 30 seconds before forcible entry greatly reduces the appearance of a home invasion, which is more likely to be met with gunfire.
- Many cases we've compiled involve people who were killed in situations where they had less than 30 seconds to respond (such as these cases in Austin TX, Ogden UT and Myrtle Beach SC). By allowing compliance, the risk of a violent and chaotic situation is reduced.
- Opponents of waiting 30 seconds claim that this timeframe would allow subjects an opportunity to flush contraband or drugs down the toilet. Realistically, if an entire case is dependent on evidence that can be flushed down a toilet in half a minute, it’s likely the case was too weak to merit a search warrant, to begin with.
What are some loopholes that the police will likely use to get around these proposed bans? How do we stop that?
The most common loophole for officers has been to cite “exigent circumstances” (e.g. a noise that sounded like a weapon being accessed or a toilet flushing that could signal evidence being discarded) as justification for forcible, military-style entry. What’s troubling about the claim of “exigent circumstances” is that officers never have to prove any such risk existed. As part of the application process in our legislation, officers are required to forecast their intended course of action if the subject does not respond to the door within 30 seconds. If officers violate the warrant requirements during the execution of the warrant, they must prove through audio/video footage and a comprehensive report that there was a verifiable reason to breach the warrant requirements. This will then be reviewed by an independent oversight committee. We have also included consequences for officers who are found to have violated these restrictions without cause.
Have any states successfully banned no-knock raids?
Currently, Oregon and Florida are the only states that prohibit issuing no-knock warrants. However, knock and announce warrants can effectively turn into no-knock raids (see response to Question E) and there is still no comprehensive data reporting in either state to verify that the practice has ended. Additionally, the laws in Oregon and Florida could go much further to restrict all types of warrants and increase police accountability.
Why isn’t there up-to-date data on how many search warrants have been issued? How many no-knock warrants have been issued? Where can I find information about how many no-knock raids are conducted in my area?
Utah and Maryland are the only two states that report data on this issue. Data collection in Maryland ended in 2014. Utah’s data is current, but it is for SWAT deployments, and not explicitly for no-knock warrants. The absence of data is one part of the strategy to keep the public in the dark about law enforcement tactics.
If there is so little data, how do we know this is important?
The lack of data, standards, and transparency is a problem in and of itself. Yet, even with such limited insight, our research has shown that unchecked warrants and subsequent raids continue to terrorize communities, especially communities of color2. With dynamic entries consistently rising since the 1980s3, the increased militarization4 of police departments, and a significant increase in the cost to both human life and property (see our map of the human costs) communities across the nation continue to be impacted.
2 American Civil Liberties Union. (2014). “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.” ACLU Foundation
3 Kraska, Peter. (2018). “The Material Reality of State Violence: The Case of Police Militarization.”
4 Kraska, Peter. (2007). “Militarization and Policing - Its Relevant to 21st Century Police.”
How does this campaign intersect with the presidential (i.e. November) elections?
Laws pertaining to search warrants are proposed and voted on at the state and local levels. Legislators in both state legislatures and local municipalities are currently drafting bills to be presented in January and building coalitions to get this legislation passed. It is important to make sure the bills are strong and comprehensive now. City councils and county commissions are also actively working weekly and bi-weekly to pass new codes, ordinances, regulations, legislation, and amendments to their charters related to police practices and civilian oversight.
What data should the public be asking for?
In order to increase transparency and accountability for all types of search warrants, law enforcement must track and share data for all of the following on an annual basis, at least: 1. The total number of all search warrants applied for and the associated crime cited in the application 2. The number of SWAT Deployments in their jurisdiction each year 3. The number of No-Knock warrants applied for and the number of No-Knock warrants issued 4. The number of Knock and Announce search warrants that were executed with a dynamic entry 5. How often evidence cited in the search warrant was actually found and seized 6. The monetary value of all assets/cash/property seized during a search and whether this property was returned to the subject and 7. All injuries or deaths occurring in the process of executing a search warrant.