FRANKFORT, Ky. — A bill to significantly limit when no-knock warrants can be issued cleared the Kentucky Senate unanimously on Thursday.

What You Need To Know

  • After Breonna Taylor was killed during the execution of a no-knock warrant in Louisville, state lawmakers have passed a bill significantly limiting no-knock search warrants

  • The measure limits the use of no-knock warrants to situations involving violent crimes or terrorism

  • Having passed the state Senate, the bill now advances to the House for consideration

  • Lawmakers worry time may run out, as they still need to pass a budget before the legislative session ends at the end of March

Following the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville after the execution of a no-knock warrant last year, many criminal justice reform advocates called for a ban on such warrants.  

Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) said his bill, Senate Bill 4, addresses their concerns.

“Under this bill, the events that occurred around the home of Breonna Taylor would not have happened. Period,” Stivers said.

SB 4 mostly limits when no-knock warrants can be used to situations involving violent crimes or terrorism.

“If there is a terrorist situation, where there was something similar to this a few years ago in Bowling Green, do you really want to knock on the door and announce yourself when these individuals are willing to kill themselves and anybody else?” Stivers said.

The bill does several other things: it limits when a no-knock warrant can be used to between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., it puts more oversight on the warrant approval process, it requires body cameras for all no-knock warrants, and it requires special training for officers executing those warrants.

“This is for the safety of the officers. It is for the safety of the individuals who are being sought by this warrant, and for bystanders,” Stivers said during committee testimony Thursday.

Sen. Reggie Thomas (D-Lexington) is a co-sponsor and said the bill needs to move through.

“We’ve taken a lot of heat as a state on this,” Thomas said. “And I think we have addressed this in the right way and we are moving forward.”

The bill passed unanimously in committee Thursday before it was brought to the Senate floor later in the day.

During the floor debate, Sen. Gerald Neal (D-Louisville) said the bill should be the start of a conversation about how to build better trust between police and the community they serve, especially the Black community.

“Our problems are broader. They are deeper. They’re going to require a long-term willingness to understand and do those things that serves us all,” Neal said. “And I think this is a beginning.”

One of the few lawmakers with law enforcement experience is Sen. John Schickel (R-Union) who served as a local police officer and as a U.S. Marshal.

“I can tell you first-hand — and I discussed this with the Senate President way back in the summer — there is definitely need for this legislation,” Schickel said. “There were times when I would leave these search warrants with not a good feeling in my stomach, knowing that we could have done a better job.”

He said Senate Bill 4 was needed long before Breonna Taylor’s death due to constitutional concerns.

“Every time we serve a search warrant, we are legally — if we follow these rules — legally taking away a citizen’s constitutional right,” Schickel said. “And that should be taken very, very seriously.”

But this bill is not “Breonna’s Law,” which is an outright ban on no-knock warrants plus other police reforms.

That proposal, House Bill 21, is sponsored by Rep. Attica Scott (D-Louisville).

“Please don’t ignore the community that’s been crying out because you think you know best and you’re on the outside looking in,” Scott said.

Scott said Senate Bill 4 needs to go further, and she’s upset her bill hasn’t received the same attention.  

“We created this bill in community with folks who were on the front lines for justice with Breonna Taylor’s family,” Scott said. “I refuse to allow that work to be ignored.”

Scott said she has been assured by House leaders that her bill will soon be referred to committee.

The biggest obstacle with Senate Bill 4 could be the timing. Stivers said he’s concerned with whether or not House lawmakers have enough time to dissect the bill and vote on a version of it they agree with.

“I think the House will look at this. I think they want to make sure they have the opportunity to debate and discuss,” Stivers said. “And I think if there is a final product that gets done before the last day of the session, I doubt the governor is going to veto it.”

After Thursday, there are only 12 legislative work days left in the session, and lawmakers still need to pass a budget as well. The final calendar day of the legislative session is March 30.