The Supreme Court of South Carolina
RE: Issuance of No-knock Search Warrants1 by Circuit and Summary Court Judges
Magistrates issue the majority of search warrants in South Carolina. A recent survey of magistrates revealed that most do not understand the gravity of no-knock warrants and do not discern the heightened requirements for issuing a no-knock warrant. It further appears that no-knock search warrants are routinely issued upon request without further inquiry. In recognition of the dangers that the execution of no-knock warrants present to law enforcement and members of the public, and in order to ensure that these warrants are issued based upon the proper constitutional and statutory criteria,
I FIND it necessary to address the issuance of no-knock search warrants by circuit and summary court judges statewide.
Pursuant to Article V, Section 4 of the South Carolina Constitution,
IT IS ORDERED that a moratorium upon the issuance of no-knock warrants by all circuit and summary court judges of this state take effect immediately and remain in effect until instruction is provided to circuit and summary court judges statewide as to the criteria to be used to determine whether a requested no-knock warrant should be issued. This instruction will be provided by the South Carolina Judicial Branch.
The provisions of this order are effective immediately and remain in effect unless amended or revoked by subsequent order of the Chief Justice.
1 A "no-knock" warrant is one that, regardless of whether it contains the precise phrase "no-knock," allows government officials to enter a dwelling or other building without complying with the traditional requirement of the federal Fourth Amendment that officials "knock and announce" their presence prior to entering. See e.g., Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U.S. 927 (1995).
s/Donald W. Beatty
Donald W. Beatty
Chief Justice of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
July 10, 2020