In Arizona, no-knock warrants are legal and, worse, they are utilized in non-violent cases, creating a risk of safety that they are reportedly designed to prevent.
In this article, first, we will discuss the Arizona laws surrounding no-knock search warrants. Then, second, we will discuss how tragic and unacceptable situations, like that involving the police killing of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, can happen here in Arizona.
Arizona Law on No-Knock Search Warrants
Arizona statutes refer to no-knock warrants as "unannounced entry" warrants. They are the same thing.
The standard for a magistrate judge, or justice of the peace, to issue an unannounced entry warrant is rather low. The law states, "On a reasonable showing that an announced entry to execute the warrant would endanger the safety of any person or would result in the destruction of any of the items described in the warrant, the magistrate shall authorize an unannounced entry." A.R.S. Section 13-3915(B).
There are three problems with this statute. First, what is a "reasonable showing"? The standard itself is incredibly vague.
Second, a no-knock warrant is permissible upon speculation that "items" (not lives) may be destroyed. So, in a non-violent case, such as a drug possession case, a no-knock warrant can be issued if the magistrate decides that the alleged drugs might be destroyed upon the announcement of the officers' presence. Put another way, Arizona law allows for lives to be put at risk in order to prevent destruction of evidence in a non-violent case.
The third problem is the word "shall" in the statute, which may result in a magistrate judge (who, in Arizona, does not need a law degree) believing that she or he must issue a no-knock warrant. Judicial discretion is not afforded by the statute.
All of these problems risk no-knock warrants, or "unannounced entry" warrants, being pervasive in Arizona.
The Dangerous Implications of No-Knock Warrants
The second topic to consider is: what happens after a no-knock warrant is issued in Arizona? It gives the police incredible power to break into your house, vehicle, apartment, or other living arrangement without announcing their presence. And that's when horrific outcomes occur like in the Breonna Taylor case.
In Arizona, we have a "stand your ground" self-defense law. It allows people to use force, including deadly force, without retreating. "A person has no duty to retreat before threatening or using deadly physical force pursuant to this section if the person is in a place where the person may legally be and is not engaged in an unlawful act." A.R.S. Section 13-405(B).
Together, the no-knock warrant law and the stand your ground laws are a recipe for avoidable disaster. If an Arizona resident is in their home, with a gun, and a group of people (who turn out to be police officers) break in, completely unannounced, fully armed, the tragic outcome of Breonna Taylor's case is exactly what can happen.
Worst of all, this can happen in non-violent cases, based on the mere possibility that items of evidence, as opposed to human lives, may be lost.
Contact Experienced Flagstaff Criminal Defense Attorneys Today
If you need legal help involving a search warrant in a criminal case in Arizona, our experienced Flagstaff criminal defense attorneys are prepared to protect your rights before the court. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.