House Committee unanimously approves forcible entry bill

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker is pushing for a bill that would give judges more oversight when issuing forcible entry warrants.

House Committee members unanimously approved the bill Tuesday with no opposition. But in the past, critics from the law enforcement community voiced concerns. They said the bill would make it tougher to do their jobs, and it would open the door for more litigation.

Under HB 70, Rep. Marc Roberts is proposing new requirements for law enforcement officials when trying to obtain forcible entry warrants. Right now, officers can obtain warrants if it meets a reasonable suspicion standard, but this bill would change that standard to probable cause.

Courts would authorize warrants only when evidence can be quickly and easily destroyed. Law enforcement officials would be required to show there’s a less invasive options, and must also lay out their investigation findings that proves the warrant is being served at the right location.

Roberts said the bill is in response to several incidents surrounding questionable methods used during raids. In January 2012, officers served a drug related search warrant at the home of Matthew D. Stewart. A shootout at the home led to the death of Officer Jared Francom.

Roberts received a lot of feedback on his bill last week and made some changes. The bill will now move on to the House floor.

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