DOJ Announces New Policy on Chokeholds and No-Knock Entries

The Federal Docket

September 15, 2021

The Department of Justice has announced a new written policy prohibiting the use of “chokeholds” and “carotid restraints,” a method of knocking out a detainee by restricting blood flow to their brain, unless an officer is authorized to use deadly force. The DOJ also announced a new policy limiting the use of “no-knock” warrants and entries. The policies will be applied across the entire Department of Justice and its sub-agencies.

Regarding the new policy on “no-knock” entries, the press release states:

“Federal agents are generally required to “knock and announce” their identity, authority and purpose, and demand to enter before entry is made to execute a warrant in a private dwelling. However, there are some circumstances where unannounced entries are authorized. The new policy generally limits the use of “no knock” entries in connection with the execution of a warrant to situations where an agent has reasonable grounds to believe that knocking and announcing the agent’s presence would create an imminent threat of physical violence to the agent and/or another person. This new policy is narrower than what is permitted by law. In setting the policy this way, the department is limiting the use of higher-risk “no knock” entries to only those instances where physical safety is at stake. If an agent suspects a threat to physical safety and seeks a “no knock” warrant, the agent must first get supervisory approval from both a federal prosecutor as well as the agent’s law enforcement component.

The policy does recognize, however, that there may be rare circumstances when there is justification – other than physical safety – to execute a “no knock” entry.  If an exception is sought when there is no imminent threat of physical safety, the agent must first get approval from the head of the law enforcement component and the U.S. Attorney or relevant Assistant Attorney General before seeking judicial authorization for a “no knock” warrant.”

Click here to read the press release.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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