Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost

COLUMBUS -- Seeking to preserve the "no-knock" warrant as a police-safety tool, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and a bipartisan group of county prosecutors on Thursday sought the support of Gov. Mike DeWine and legislative leaders on a compromise: changes in state law that would tighten the requirements for obtaining such a warrant.

Yost was joined by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters in the effort.

“Executing a search warrant in cases involving drug dealers, human traffickers and other violent offenders is inherently dangerous for law enforcement,” Yost said.

“When a warrant is sometimes necessary, officers should be properly equipped to make the safest entry possible, and a no-knock warrant – a waiver of the statutory "knock and announce" requirements – is the right tool to safeguard them," Yost said.

In a letter sent to DeWine, Senate President Larry Obhof and House Speaker Bob Cupp, Yost and the three prosecutors, a bipartisan group representing Ohio’s three largest counties, noted a "no-knock" warrant is typically granted only in extraordinary circumstances.

Instead of banning such warrants, the letter signees suggest changes to Ohio law that would require a more robust justification for their issuance. Those suggestions include:

-- Raising the threshold to substantial risk of serious physical harm to officers.

-- Clarifying that the phrase “good cause” means “probable cause” and does not mean a “reasonable suspicion,” which is a lower standard.

-- Barring no-knock warrants when allegations encompass only misdemeanor drug possession or the possession of drug paraphernalia.

-- Requiring officers conducting a no-knock warrant to wear readily identifiable markings and to identify themselves as soon as possible upon entry.

-- Requiring officers conducting a no-knock warrant, absent exigent circumstances, to wear and activate body cameras.

O’Malley said the recommendations would not only restrict, but also clarify, the use of no-knock warrants statewide.

“While these types of warrants are only used in the rarest of circumstances, it is important they are done so in a responsible manner that takes the safety of all parties involved into consideration,” he said.

O’Brien agreed, saying, “These common-sense amendments to state law will protect both law enforcement officers as well as Ohio citizens.”

Deters, the Hamilton County prosecutor, praised Yost for taking the lead in the discussion of no-knock warrants.

“No-knock warrants are rarely used in my jurisdiction, but it is necessary that law enforcement have this tool available to them,” Deters said.

“I wholeheartedly support the AG's recommendations to the state legislature to ensure that no-knock warrants are used only in the most exceptional circumstances and that we do everything we can to make sure that both innocent civilians and law enforcement are protected," Deters said.

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