Virginia's Governor Signs Bill Banning No-Knock Warrants

Virginia's Governor Signs Bill Banning No-Knock Warrants
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam speaks in Richmond, Virginia, on Dec. 10, 2019. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Mimi Nguyen Ly

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed legislation that includes a ban on no-knock warrants, making the commonwealth the third state-level jurisdiction to do so.

Florida, Oregon, and at least 13 local governments or police departments across the country have either banned the warrants or restricted their use. No-knock warrants allow law enforcement officials to enter a residence forcibly without having to announce their purpose or identifying themselves as police.

“These new laws represent a tremendous step forward in rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve," Northam, a Democrat, said in a statement. "I am grateful to the legislators and advocates who have worked so hard to make this change happen. Virginia is better, more just, and more equitable with these laws on our books."

Alena Yarmosky, a Northam spokesperson, said the law will go into effect on March 1.

The House bill (HB 5099) "prohibits law enforcement officers from seeking or executing a no-knock search warrant." The same measure also requires that all search warrants be issued for daylight hours unless otherwise approved by a judge for early morning or nighttime.

The legislation accompanied a cluster of reform measures under an omnibus Senate bill (SB 5030) that Northam signed on Oct 28, and was sponsored by Democratic Sen. Mamie Locke. It was passed by Virginia's Senate in September.

Locke said on Oct. 28, "These are transformative bills that will make Virginians’ lives better, and I’m so proud to see them signed into law."

Other legislation incorporated under the Virginia SB 5030 included a bill that would limit when law enforcement officers can use neck restraints, and a bill that "strengthens the process by which law enforcement officers can be decertified."

Locke added that the deaths of Breonna Taylor and other black Americans "woke Americans to a longstanding problem that has existed for generations—and we know Virginia is not immune."

Media reports for months have stated that police officers executed a no-knock warrant on Taylor’s apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, on March 13. But an investigation found that police had knocked and announced themselves before breaching the door, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Republican, said in September.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron speaks to the media during a press conference in Frankfort, Kentucky, on Sept. 23, 2020. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron speaks to the media during a press conference in Frankfort, Kentucky, on Sept. 23, 2020. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

Louisville Metro Detective Brett Hankison, Sgt. Jon Mattingly, and Detective Myles Cosgrove served the warrant. Because no one responded when they knocked and announced themselves, they breached the door. Mattingly, the only officer who entered the apartment during the incident, found a male and a female standing next to each other at the end of the hall.

The male was standing in a shooting stance and holding a gun. Mattingly saw the gun go off and knew he was shot after feeling heat in his thigh, Cameron told a press conference on Sept. 23. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, admitted to firing the shot that hit Mattingly.

The officers subsequently returned fire, shooting a total of 16 times. Six of the bullets struck Taylor, an emergency medical technician, Cameron said. FBI ballistics testing showed the fatal shot was fired by Cosgrove, although other ballistics testing was inconclusive.

The investigation found that both Mattingly and Cosgrove “were justified in their use of force,” the attorney general said. “This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Ms. Breonna Taylor’s death.”

Only one of the police officers involved in serving the search warrant, Hankison, was indicted on Sept. 23. A grand jury returned three counts of wanton endangerment against Hankison.

The counts stemmed from the jury’s belief that the officer had put residents in a neighboring apartment in danger of serious physical injury or death. Hankison faces 15 years imprisonment if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Hankison had been fired in June from the city's department. Interim Police Chief Robert Schroeder said that Hankison had violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” fired 10 shots into Taylor’s apartment. He also said that Hankison violated the rules against the use of deadly force.

Mattingly, Cosgrove, and Joshua Jaynes—a detective who obtained the warrant—are still with the force, but were reassigned following the shooting.

Zachary Stieber and Isabel van Brugen contributed to this report.