Why the Legislature is Considering Creating Exceptions for Typeless Inputs That Already Exist

As Minnesota lawmakers and the city of Minneapolis debate new limits on no-hit search warrants following the murder of Amir Locke by a Minneapolis police officer, a point of contention has been whether to try to prohibit them completely or to allow them in extreme or limited circumstances. .

The most often given example of such an extreme circumstance: a hostage taking.

On Thursday, House Democrats detailed a bill that would dramatically reduce no-hit search warrants, but it has a key exception: courts can approve no-knock entry if there is clear evidence of a significant and imminent risk of death or harm to a confined person without their consent. Democrats said the exception could allow police to use no-knock warrants in near-emergency situations.

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But the DFL’s measure drew criticism from two police chiefs – one who opposes no-hit raids and the other who supports them – who said the exclusion could be unnecessary because officers don’t actually need a no-hit search warrant if someone’s life is in danger.

What the DFL Bill would do

Last year, State Representative Athena Hollins, DFL-St. Paul, introduced a bill this would have limited no hit search warrants in situations related to first degree murder, hostage taking, kidnapping, terrorism or human trafficking.

Legislators instead approved a less restrictive policy which required officers to obtain approval from at least two people in service management before applying for a no-hit search warrant. The legislation also prohibited smooth raids related to possession of drugs for personal use.

State Representative Athena Hollins

Now, Hollins has introduced a new bill, backed by many House DFLers, that would end most no-hit search warrants. It says a court can only issue a no-knock search warrant if “there is clear and compelling evidence of a significant, articulate and imminent risk of death or grievous bodily harm to a person confined without their consent. at the place designated in the guarantee.”

During a House Finance and Policy Committee hearing on public safety and criminal justice reform on Thursday, hollins said many people have called for “a complete ban on this dangerous tool”. However, she said “stakeholders agreed that (if there were situations where significant and active harm was occurring, it would be appropriate for law enforcement to enter without notice.”

When Locke was killed, Minneapolis Policy Governing Search Warrants required officers to knock and wait before entering someone’s home or force open a door, then announce themselves as police just before entering. But the policy also included a clause outlining what it called ‘exceptional circumstances’ – when the announcement of an officer’s presence would create an imminent threat of physical harm to someone – which allowed police entry. in a house without any type of ad.

And while the city said officers must now knock and announce themselves before forced entry in most circumstances, they can still enter without announcing their presence if there is “an imminent threat of harm to an individual or the public,” according to a city press release. .

Officers can enter without announcing in case of emergency

During Thursday’s hearing, Mendota Heights Police Chief Kelly McCarthy, who also chairs the state’s police licensing and standards board, said lawmakers should simply ban police warrants altogether. search without fail.

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McCarthy said the ban on no-hit search warrants does not mean the end of forcible entry on warrants, it simply means that “anyone present for these warrants has a reasonable opportunity to comply with officers’ orders. “.

Mendota Heights Police Chief Kelly McCarthy

Mendota Heights Police Chief Kelly McCarthy

McCarthy also said that in extreme circumstances, officers don’t need a no-knock search warrant at all to enter someone’s home unannounced, making the exclusion from the project of Hollins’ law useless in his view. “Officers don’t need a warrant to act when faced with ongoing crimes or eminent security issues,” she said.

William Blair Anderson, St. Cloud’s police chief, told the public safety committee that he opposes strict limits on no-knock warrants. But he also opposed the exception for extreme cases or Demanding Circumstancescalling it “superfluous”.

“If I approach a dwelling and I have all the information in that language indicating that someone is in imminent danger of death or bodily harm, I do not need a warrant of any kind. “, said Anderson.

Two legal experts also said police did not need a search warrant if someone was in imminent danger.

Joseph Daly, professor emeritus at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law, said warrants are necessary to protect against unreasonable searches and seizures protected by the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution. But Daly said there are many exceptions outlined by the courts. One is for “hot pursuit,” Daly said, which is like tracking a bank robber who has fled a crime scene and entered someone’s home. Another is emergency situations, like a hostage situation, where responders need to rescue someone, Daly said.

Rachel Moran

Rachel Moran

Rachel Moran, a professor at the University of St. Thomas Law School, said police can also enter someone’s home without a warrant if they have reason to believe someone is in danger and needs help, even if there is no potential crime involved.

On Friday, Hollins said in an interview that his bill was not about officers getting a no-knock warrant in “demanding circumstances.”

“We don’t want the police to go to court and ask for a warrant if there’s an active shooter shooting through the window,” Hollins said.

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But, Hollins said, there could be a narrow list of situations that might not qualify as “demanding circumstances” — so an officer couldn’t walk in immediately without announcing themselves — where police might instead get a no hit search warrant under its legislation. “And we thought that in those circumstances, if there was a chance that it wasn’t an urgent circumstance, we would still want them to come before a judge and ask for a warrant,” she said.

For example, Hollins said that if human trafficking is happening and “it’s a known place and we know the actors and who’s coming in and out, but we’d still prefer there to be a no-knock warrant in this situation”.

“And where someone could suffer serious bodily harm, but we don’t really know when exactly that would happen,” Hollins said.

She also said in “really extreme cases” like a “kind of Waco situation” where “we know it’s happening, we know it’s life-threatening even for people inside this place and we want to come in and we don’t. I want to have to knock to do this. (In the 1993 Waco, Texas caseFederal agents raided a compound belonging to the Branch Davidian religious group, which was suspected of stockpiling illegal weapons, although there were also concerns for the welfare of children.)

Hollins also said political reality was at play: Some House lawmakers didn’t feel comfortable with a bill banning search warrants without knocking no exceptions.

Hollins’ banning measure was approved by the Public Safety Committee on Thursday in a 10-9 vote that largely toed party lines. DFL Representative John Huot of Rosemount voted no and was the only lawmaker to break with his party. The Republican-led Senate has so far been skeptical of major restrictions on no-hit search warrants, meaning the bill may not gain traction if passed by the House.

Bill targets search warrants, not arrest warrants

Hollins also said that while his bill limits search warrants, which are aimed at finding evidence of a crime, arrest warrants are governed by a different Minnesota law that is not changed by his legislation. .

Hollins said she understands it’s possible police could still be granted a no-knock arrest warrant without such risk of imminent harm if their legislation is passed.

Moran said arrest warrants are generally governed by the same standards as search warrants. Officers must obtain one from a judge and must also explain their rationale. She also said search warrants can “cover situations where the search relates to a person,” meaning Hollins’ bill could apply when officers arrest people.

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Daly, Professor Hamline Mitchell, also said search warrants and arrest warrants are often sought from the same home, meaning that sometimes regulations under the Hollins Bill may apply. “They’re asking that we want to come in and seize him, arrest him, and we also want to because he’s a drug dealer…and we want to search his house,” Daly said.

Still, Moran said of Hollins’ bill, “It’s a possible concern, that it doesn’t prevent no-knock entries into homes for the purpose of arrest.”

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