Georgia lawmakers looking at controversial no-knock warrant bills

While supporters say bills will prevent injuries, others worry about civil liberties

In the wake of a number of tragic incidents involving police officers executing search warrants without first knocking on a suspect's door, Georgia lawmakers are considering two bills that would regulate so-called no-knock warrants. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the bills would introduce new requirements for when and how no-knock warrants could be carried out. While critics of the bill acknowledge that the intentions behind the proposals are to protect people from being injured by police searches, they say the bills are misguided as no-knock warrants are already illegal under state law.

Prevent tragedies

The proposals come in response to an incident last year when police carried out a no-knock warrant on a property where drug offenses were believed to have been committed. During the search, police detonated a stun grenade that severely injured and disfigured a sleeping infant. In another incident in 2006, a 92-year-old woman died in her Atlanta home while police conducted a search on her property with a no-knock warrant.

The first bill currently under consideration, SB 45, would require police to show probable cause that knocking on a door to carry out a search warrant would likely cause injury or the destruction of evidence. The second bill, HB 56, would prohibit almost all no-knock warrants from being carried out between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and would also introduce additional measures to ensure the warrants are carried out safely.

Legitimizes no-knock warrants

Although the bills are largely designed to protect people from being injured during unexpected police searches, criminal law and civil rights experts have voiced some misgivings about the proposals. They say that under current Georgia law, no-knock warrants are already considered illegal, according to WXIA News.

Since critics claim these searches are already prohibited, the bills mentioned above are simply trying to regulate what is an illegal activity. Perhaps even more worryingly, critics contend that although the bills may be well-meaning, they could end up legitimizing no-knock warrants and thus undermining people's constitutional rights in the face of illegal police searches.

Criminal defense

Protecting the constitutional rights of people accused of crimes is central to a functioning democracy. As the above story shows, during a police search and seizure the issue of civil liberties can end up taking on a central role. Evidence that has been obtained illegally by police cannot be used against a criminal defendant during a trial.

While the U.S. Constitution guarantees such rights, it is often up to an experienced criminal defense attorney to make sure those rights are actually protected in court. Anybody who has been charged with a criminal offense needs to contact a defense attorney immediately in order to discuss how best to respond to such charges.