Last year a Houston police officer was arrested for murder after a botched no-knock raid. The charge was dismissed, but the story does demonstrate that no-knock warrants are in use in Houston, and that they sometimes lead to tragic deaths.
No-knock warrants are legal in Texas. They give police the right to search a home or business without knocking or announcing themselves. The supposed reason for them is to keep suspects from destroying evidence before police can get to it.
What must police do before they obtain a no-knock warrant?
Police do not get a no-knock warrant by default. The warrant must be signed by a district court judge. It must be approved by the chief of police, or someone who outranks the chief of police. In Texas, a no-knock warrant may only be used by a SWAT team.
Currently Texas House Bill 1272 is under debate. This bill would restrict no-knock warrants to cases involving violent offenses.
Why are no-knock warrants dangerous?
No-knock warrants often result in deaths because those who are in the home often have no idea who is showing up in the middle of the night. If they are gun owners themselves they often pick up a gun to defend themselves before they realize they are dealing with law enforcement. This instantly escalates the situation into violence. Police shoot to defend their own lives and the people in the home, outgunned and outnumbered, generally die as a result. Sometimes police officers die as well.
This is especially tragic in cases where teams go in looking for drugs, find no drugs, but end up with blood spilled after a chaotic night. Nationwide, 22 individuals have been killed in no-knock events since 2015. The person killed in at least five of those raids was not the person of interest.
What should you do after a no-knock raid?
If you have been through a no-knock raid and have not been shot or arrested then you should nevertheless reach out to a criminal defense attorney. You are on the radar of law enforcement and could find yourself accused of a crime at any minute.
If you were arrested, invoke your 5th Amendment rights and invoke your right to an attorney. Do not talk to the police, even if you do not live in the raided home and know nothing about any illegal activities going on there.
The form of the warrant will neither help nor hurt your case, unless the warrant was issued improperly.
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