The Department of Justice today announced written department-wide policies explicitly prohibiting the use of “chokeholds” and  “carotid restraints” unless deadly force is authorized, and limiting the circumstances in which the department’s federal law enforcement components are authorized to use no-knock warrants. 

“Building trust and confidence between law enforcement and the public we serve is central to our mission at the Justice Department,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The limitations implemented today on the use of ‘chokeholds,’ ‘carotid restraints’ and ‘no-knock’ warrants, combined with our recent expansion of body-worn cameras to DOJ’s federal agents, are among the important steps the department is taking to improve law enforcement safety and accountability.”

Under the new policy, the department’s law enforcement components will be prohibited from using “chokeholds” and “carotid restraints” unless deadly force is authorized, that is “when the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.”  

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 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.

The DOJ's new no-knock warrant policy is narrower than what is permitted by law. 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.

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