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Criminal Justice Reforms: Should Lawmakers Ban Nighttime Warrants?


Lawmakers are about to return to Richmond and consider a host of criminal justice reforms.

The death of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky has prompted a round of soul searching among prosecutors in Virginia. Taylor was an African American woman who was killed by police who had a warrant to enter her apartment in the middle of the night without identifying themselves.

Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Anton Bell says the incident shows a need for reform in Virginia.

“The requirement that all warrants be served during the daytime, and that would include a knock and announce provision with an additional showing to a judge, not a magistrate, who will have that skill level to be able to fully assess the danger," says Bell.

Some prosecutors disagree. “I think that’s a bridge too far. I think nighttime search warrants are fine. I think having to do them during the daytime hours would be very difficult for law enforcement officers to do their job," says Fluvanna County Commonwealth's Attorney Jeff Haislip. "They need to act when they can act, and I don’t see anything wrong with serving a search warrant at night.”

Requiring law enforcement officials to serve warrants only in the daytime is one of the items on the agenda for the newly created Progressive Prosecutors for Justice, a group that includes Anton Bell, among others. The Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys has no position on the proposal.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.