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KC Attorney Breaks Down ‘no-knock warrants’

Caitlin Knute


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — “No-knock warrants,” which played a role in the March shooting death of Louisville EMS worker Breonna Taylor, are legal in Missouri and Kansas. And they can be an important tool for law enforcement, according to one local attorney.

John Picerno, a Kansas City, Missouri, criminal defense attorney who was not affiliated with Taylor’s case, said “no-knock warrants” are assigned by a magistrate after an affidavit – a document sworn to by officers as the “truth of the matter they’re asserting” – has been reviewed.

“In an instance of a ‘no-knock warrant,’ typically they will have information from confidential sources, undercover agents, audio and video surveillance, wire taps, whatever it may be, that criminal activity is taking place inside a residence or business,” Picerno said. “And they feel as though two things are possible – Due to the safety of the officers, they need a ‘no-knock warrant’ so they can go in, and the people inside are presumed to be armed and dangerous. And second, it can be under certain circumstances … usually in these types of raids it’s the fear that contraband will be destroyed once the officers knock and announce their name.”

Since Taylor’s death, those types of warrants were banned in Louisville in June as part of a law named after her. On Wednesday, a grand jury indicted one of the three officers involved in her death on wanton endangerment related to a raid of her residence,

While police had a “no-knock warrant” in Taylor’s case, officers claimed they did knock and announced themselves before breaking down the door. Taylor’s boyfriend and family dispute this, but Picerno, who has 30 years of experience practicing law, said that, legally, because a judge signed off on the “no-knock warrant,” those officers were within their rights.

And even though Taylor’s boyfriend said he fired shots thinking he was being robbed, Picerno said a judge or jury could reasonably conclude those officers were justified in returning fire in self defense.

“The bottom line on that is, if you were in reasonable fear for your safety, and you’re facing an imminent danger to your safety at that moment, you are allowed to use a reasonable amount of force as anyone would objectively use in that circumstance,” Picerno said.

But, Picerno acknowledged the question remains – could those officers have retreated and was it necessary to fire into the apartment? And that is something Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron could have considered, according to Picerno.

He also said attorneys general could prevent a lot of public outcry by deciding to press charges, rather than passing the buck to a grand jury.

“I think a lot of times when they use the grand jury system, it’s for political purposes,” Picerno said, “and then we don’t know what goes on in that room. We don’t know what evidence they present.”

The Attorney General in Taylor’s case, according to Picerno, could have possibly considered voluntary manslaughter or negligent homicide charges. Had those been filed by the AG himself, it would have gone before a judge to see if there was probable cause to move forward.

Then, the proceedings would be public, and Picerno said that transparency could go a long way in this current climate.