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House holds bill defining when police could forcibly enter buildings

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House holds bill defining when police could forcibly enter buildings

By Madeleine Brown | Posted - Feb. 10, 2014 at 7:42 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — A House committee made up of mostly attorneys decided Monday to hold a bill that would set parameters on when police officers can forcibly enter a building.

HB70 would require more oversight on forcible entry and change the legal standard required for forcible entry from "reasonable suspicion" to "probable cause." The bill is intended to minimize risk to police officers and citizens.

The bill would allow a forcible entry warrant to be authorized only when evidence could "quickly and easily" be destroyed.

The legislation comes in response to concerns about raids conducted at wrong addresses and incidents such as the January 2012 Ogden shooting, when officer Jared Francom was killed and five officers were also shot while serving a no-knock search warrant.

To get a warrant, the bill would require a law enforcement agent to demonstrate whether there is a less invasive option and whether there has been sufficient investigation to know the warrant will be served on the right person at the right place.

After an hour-long discussion of various concerns, the committee decided it is a joint area of concern for both the courts and the Legislature. They voted to hold the bill to see if changes can be made through an amended rule by the Utah Judicial Council.

Bill sponsor Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Santaquin, said the bill isn't meant to be an attack on law enforcement.

"The legislation is not seeking to prevent law enforcement from using forcible entry to gain access to homes or other buildings, (it's) simply trying to introduce a little bit of caution to make sure it's done when absolutely necessary and we make sure we have the correct home, among other things when forcible entry is performed," Roberts said.

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