DOJ Prohibits Its Officers from Carotid Restraints and Restricts No-Knock Warrants

Under the new policy, the departmentā€™s law enforcement components will be prohibited from using ā€œchokeholdsā€ and ā€œcarotid restraintsā€ unless deadly force is authorized, that is ā€œwhen 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.ā€

The Department of Justice today announced written department-wide policies explicitly prohibiting the use of ā€œchokeholdsā€ and  ā€œcarotid restraintsā€ unless deadly force is authorized, and limiting the circumstances in which the departmentā€™s federal law enforcement components are authorized to use no-knock warrants. 

ā€œBuilding trust and confidence between law enforcement and the public we serve is central to our mission at the Justice Department,ā€ said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. ā€œThe limitations implemented today on the use of ā€˜chokeholds,ā€™ ā€˜carotid restraintsā€™ and ā€˜no-knockā€™ warrants, combined with our recent expansion of body-worn cameras to DOJā€™s federal agents, are among the important steps the department is taking to improve law enforcement safety and accountability.ā€

Under the new policy, the departmentā€™s law enforcement components will be prohibited from using ā€œchokeholdsā€ and ā€œcarotid restraintsā€ unless deadly force is authorized, that is ā€œwhen 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.ā€  

Federal agents are generally required to ā€œknock and announceā€ 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 ā€œno knockā€ entries in connection with the execution of a warrant to situations where an agent has reasonable grounds to believe that knocking and announcing the agentā€™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 ā€œno knockā€ warrant, the agent must first get supervisory approval from both a federal prosecutor as well as the agentā€™s law enforcement component.

The policy does recognize, however, that there may be rare circumstances when there is justification ā€“ other than physical safety ā€“ to execute a ā€œno knockā€ 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 ā€œno knockā€ warrant.

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