|Posted:||December 8, 2020 01:19 PM|
|From:||Senator Timothy P. Kearney|
|To:||All Senate members|
|Subject:||Reforming No-Knock Warrant Searches - Breonna's Law|
|On March 13, 2020, Louisville police executed a no-knock warrant at an apartment suspected of being tied to drug activity. They stormed the home of emergency room technician Breonna Taylor, and opening fire when her boyfriend shot at the unannounced intruders. Breonna was asleep in bed when Louisville police shot her eight times and killed her. To add insult to this egregious act, the suspect they were looking for had already been arrested.
One reason no-knock warrants are so dangerous is that they clash with the basic concept of self-defense. Pennsylvania follows the Castle Doctrine, which allows a person to use deadly force to defend their home against intruders. Allowing police to forcibly invade a home without warning, but also allowing a homeowner to use force to protect themselves, is an invitation for catastrophe for police.
The risks and consequences of executing a warrant search without knocking are a problem for all states, including Pennsylvania. In 2019, the City of Pittsburgh settled a lawsuit that alleged SWAT officers recklessly broke into a family’s home, which was mistaken for a drug dealer’s apartment. It cost the city $80,000. A 2014 lawsuit, which claimed excessive force was used by police to enter a home and interrogate those within it, was settled by the city for $107,500.
Unannounced warrant searches have left innocent civilians dead or injured, and have left taxpayers to foot the bill for expensive legal settlements. According to a 2014 report by the American Civil Liberties Union, there are 20,000 no-knock warrants issued each year in the United States. This practice regularly occurs in low-income and disproportionately Black neighborhoods, leading frustrated communities to demand solutions after the death of Breonna Taylor.
Legislation to ban the execution of no-knock warrants has been passed by the Louisville’s City Council and introduced on the federal level by U.S. Senator Rand Paul. It is time for Pennsylvania to lead the states and enact similar legislation. I am proposing “Breonna’s Law,” a bill that would specifically provide for the following:
I encourage my colleagues to join me in co-sponsoring this important piece of legislation.