State News

S.C. Supreme Court stops “No Knock” Search Warrants

On July 10th, 2020 the State Supreme Court issued an order pertaining to “No Knock” warrants that are issued by Circuit Court and Summary Court Judges. This Order from the State Supreme Court halts the issuance of these warrants pending further direction from the South Carolina Judiciary Branch.

This Order comes after the much publizied case of a Kentucky woman who was shot in her own home after a “no knock” warrant was issued using outdated information.

Supreme Court Justice Donald Beatty stated that most of these warrants are issued by Magistrates (the lowest Judicial authority) who do not understand the gravity of such warrants.

Justice Beatty stated “It further appears that no-knock search warrants are routinely issued upon request without further inquiry. In recognition of the dangers that the execution of no-knock warrants present to law enforcement and members of the public, a moratorium upon the issuance of no-knock warrants …. to take effect immediately.”

Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution Law Enforcement Officers are required to “knock and announce” themselves prior to entering a building or residence. But aquiring a “no knock warrant” allows them to by pass this requriement.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott stated Friday, “Law enforcement can still be effective and get the job done safely without a no-knock warrant. It’s not a deal breaker for us.”

Pete Strom a former U.S. Attorney for South Carolina and now a Columbia Attorney stated, “It’s a smart move we are obviously in a new day. What the court has done is ensure that we don’t have a bad situation arise in South Carolina. The whole country is very volatile right now.”

Magistrates are not required to be lawyers and this training will educate them on the seriousness and standards of issuing these sort of warrants.

Beatty’s order applies only to state police. As a rule, law officers from the FBI and other federal agencies must meet a higher standard of cause before a federal judge and or magistrate judge will grant a no-knock warrant.

2020-07-10-01

The Supreme Court of South Carolina

RE:  Issuance of No-knock Search Warrants by Circuit and Summary Court Judges

ORDER



Magistrates issue the majority of search warrants in South Carolina. A recent survey of magistrates revealed that most do not understand the gravity of no-knock warrants and do not discern the heightened requirements for issuing a no-knock warrant. It further appears that no-knock search warrants are routinely issued upon request without further inquiry. In recognition of the dangers that the execution of no-knock warrants present to law enforcement and members of the public, and in order to ensure that these warrants are issued based upon the proper constitutional and statutory criteria,

I FIND
 it necessary to address the issuance of no-knock search warrants by circuit and summary court judges statewide.

Pursuant to Article V, Section 4 of the South Carolina Constitution,

IT IS ORDERED that a moratorium upon the issuance of no-knock warrants by all circuit and summary court judges of this state take effect immediately and remain in effect until instruction is provided to circuit and summary court judges statewide as to the criteria to be used to determine whether a requested no-knock warrant should be issued. This instruction will be provided by the South Carolina Judicial Branch.

The provisions of this order are effective immediately and remain in effect unless amended or revoked by subsequent order of the Chief Justice.

A “no-knock” warrant is one that, regardless of whether it contains the precise phrase “no-knock,” allows government officials to enter a dwelling or other building without complying with the traditional requirement of the federal Fourth Amendment that officials “knock and announce” their presence prior to entering. See e.g.,  Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U.S. 927 (1995).

s/Donald W. Beatty                                   
Donald W. Beatty
Chief Justice of South Carolina


Columbia, South Carolina
July 10, 2020

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