The Bulletin

Virginia becomes third state to ban no-knock search warrants

By: - October 28, 2020 12:14 pm

A police car in Richmond, Va. Police currently provide the vast majority of transports to psychiatric hospitals across Virginia. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation Wednesday banning law enforcement officers from executing search warrants without first knocking and announcing themselves as police.

Sponsored by Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, in the House and Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, in the Senate, the bills were inspired by the death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by police in Louisville during a late-night raid of her apartment.

“The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery woke Americans to a longstanding problem that has existed for generations — and we know Virginia is not immune,” Locke said in a statement. “These are transformative bills that will make Virginians’ lives better, and I’m so proud to see them signed into law.”

The law makes Virginia one of just three states to prohibit no-knock warrants, according to Northam’s office. The bill divided law enforcement agencies, with some arguing unannounced searches are important in limited circumstances to protect officers and evidence. Others said they didn’t use the tactic and considered it dangerous not to identify themselves as police.

Northam also signed legislation Wednesday that:

Northam said he was proposing amendments to two criminal justice bills.

He asked lawmakers to amend legislation limiting police departments from obtaining certain military equipment, proposing waivers for some search and rescue equipment.

And he proposed a six-month delay for an expanded earned sentence credit program that would move up the release dates for thousands of inmates who follow prison rules and participate in counseling and educational programs. Lawmakers had proposed the new program go into effect January 2022. Northam said a July 2022 enactment date would give the Department of Corrections the time it needs to implement the program.

“Too many families, in Virginia and across our nation, live in fear of being hurt or killed by police,” Northam said in a statement. “These new laws represent a tremendous step forward in rebuilding trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. 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.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Ned Oliver
Ned Oliver

Ned, a Lexington native, has been a fulltime journalist since 2008, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass. He was named Virginia's outstanding journalist for 2020 by the Virginia Press Association.