On Thursday, the Texas House approved House Bill 492, limiting no-knock entry from law enforcement.
The bill, introduced by State Rep. Eugene Wu (D–Houston), was approved with bipartisan support by a vote of 143-1.
The bill defines a “no-knock entry” as a peace officer entering a building or other place without notifying the occupants of his authority or purpose before entering. District judges may issue arrest warrants or search warrants when they are accompanied by a signed statement approving their use from the chief administrator of the law enforcement agency seeking the warrant.
Supporters of HB 492 maintain that the bill would better protect both the community and law enforcement officers by limiting who can issue ”no-knock” warrants and requiring them to be approved at the highest level of a law enforcement agency.
Jumeka Reed, whose sister was killed in a no-knock raid, came to testify when HB 492 was heard by the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee in March.
Reed stated, “You’re breaking into people’s homes in the peak hours of the night, in the morning, unannounced, in a stand-your-ground state.”
Supporters went on to say that these no-knock warrants set a dangerous conflict with the state’s castle doctrine policy, which permits individuals to stand their ground and use deadly force in their homes to protect their property.
In 2014, Texas police broke down the door of John Quinn’s home during a no-knock raid, and police shot Quinn when he reached for his gun, believing his home was being invaded. Law enforcement justified the raid by saying Quinn was armed and owning a firearm was enough for them to consider him dangerous, even though he had a concealed carry permit.
Critics of HB 492 claim that the bill is too restrictive and should provide better flexibility to law enforcement seeking no-knock warrants, especially in rural areas, and suggested that abuses of no-knock warrants could be addressed in other ways.
State Rep. Jake Ellzey (R–Waxahachie) was the only vote against the bill in its third reading.
Both the Texas Republican and Democrat party platforms call for limiting the use of no-knock warrants.
May 13 is the deadline for bills to be heard on the House floor.