Texas proposal to limit no-knock warrants builds bipartisan support

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Inspired by the shooting death of Breonna Taylor during a no-knock warrant and the unrest that followed, proposed legislation in the Lone Star State to limit who can sign off on no-knock warrants and how law enforcement can execute those orders is building bipartisan support at the Capitol.

Taylor was killed last year by law enforcement in Kentucky when her boyfriend exchanged gunfire with officers executing a no-knock warrant. He testified he thought the officers were intruders, and he fired a warning shot. The officers responded by firing rounds into the home, killing Taylor.

The City of Louisville agreed to pay Taylor’s family $12 million and reform its police practices.

Demonstrators filled streets across America in response to the killing.

Taylor’s case, paired with no-knock warrants gone wrong in Texas, were the inspiration for Breonna’s Bill, House Bill 1272.

HB 1272 would require law enforcement officers to clearly identify themselves, wear their uniform and ensure body cameras are activated.

The bill would also authorize a magistrate to sign off on the warrant if “the person who is the subject of the warrant has committed a violent offense” and “any entry other than a no-knock entry would
endanger a person’s life or result in the destruction of evidence.”

It would also limit the hours a no-knock warrant could be executed from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“The State of Texas truly believes that, that you have the right to stand your ground,” State Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Dallas, who authored the bill, said in a Monday press conference. “But it’s hard to say that you have the right to stand your ground and the right to protect your castle, unless it’s a law enforcement officer that you don’t know what’s coming into your home.”

“We’ve heard a lot about Breonna, but we’ve got many Texans that have been affected in a negative way,” Crockett said.

Civil rights groups in the state are on the record supporting the bill. So are several family members of people either imprisoned or killed as a result of no-knock raids.

Garrett Galloway’s brother Marvin Guy is believed to have shot and killed a Killeen police officer in 2014 during a no-knock raid relating to suspected drug activity. Galloway said his brother was defending himself against an intruder.

Guy is accused of shooting and killing Detective Charles Dinwiddie. The case has yet to go to trial.

“No knocks are no good for no one on any side,” Galloway said Monday. “It puts lives in jeopardy of the law enforcement, as well as the personnel that’s on the other side.”

The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas listed the measure on its tally of bills it opposed this session.

In a statement, CLEAT’s Public Affairs Coordinator Jennifer Szimanski said the group “has been working with the authors of the legislation as they sought our input.”

“Our work continues, and we don’t have anything to report at this time,” Szimanski stated.

HB 1272 would limit who can issue the warrant. Justices of the peace, municipal court judges and constitutional county court judges would not be allowed to authorize the no-knock warrants under the proposal.

“Some have been concerned about the fact that we don’t want non-licensed attorneys to sign off, but it’s not been a deal breaker,” Crockett said, noting at least one lawmaker questioned her about the bill’s requirement not to conduct no-knock warrants in the overnight hours.

HB 1272 passed out of the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee 7-2 earlier this month, with three Republicans voting yes. The two no votes were Republicans Keith Bell of Forney and David Cook of Mansfield. Neither were available Monday to address why they opposed the proposal.

The bill now waits for the powerful Calendars Committee to place it on the House Calendar for debate and a vote. The last day of the legislative session is May 31.

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