Administration of Justice Bulletin #2023/01

The Law and Practice of No-Knock Search Warrants in North Carolina

Thursday, January 5, 2023

A no-knock search warrant is a warrant that allows an officer to force his or her way into a premises without first knocking on the door and announcing his or her presence and purpose. These warrants are controversial. Since Breonna Taylor was killed during the execution of a no-knock warrant, they have been the subject of a national debate. They have been addressed in the media and in law reviews. 

Many criminal justice reformers want no-knock warrants restricted or eliminated. Some states have taken steps in that direction, and President Biden has issued an executive order limiting the authority of federal law enforcement agencies to make no-knock entries. On the other hand, some supporters of no-knock warrants see them as vital tools for preventing the destruction of evidence and for getting a tactical advantage over potentially dangerous suspects.

Critics contend that no-knock warrants are issued routinely and with little scrutiny. Proponents argue that no-knock warrants are rare and carefully considered.

This bulletin takes a deep dive into the law and practice regarding no-knock warrants in North Carolina. Among the conclusions are: (1) there is no explicit authority for North Carolina judicial officials to issue no-knock warrants; (2) judicial officials sometimes issue such warrants anyway; (3) no-knock warrants seem to be very rare; (4) when an application for a no-knock warrant is granted, the resulting warrant does not always include an express judicial determination regarding the need for a no-knock entry or an express judicial authorization of such an entry; and (5) quick-knock entries, where officers knock and announce their presence and then immediately force entry, may be widespread.


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