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What is Bou Bou's Law?

By    |   Thursday, 18 June 2015 06:13 PM

The Georgia legislature failed to enact "Bou Bou's Law" this year, legislation pushed for after a 19-month-old baby was severely injured by a Georgia SWAT team.

Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanh, 19 months old, was sleeping one morning in May 2014 when a Georgia SWAT team crashed unannounced through his relative’s front door and tossed a flash bang grenade that burned his body and severely hurt him, VICE News reported.

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The baby lost most of his nose, suffered from a collapsed left lung, and "tore his face and body down to muscle and bone," VICE said. Georgia State Sen. Vincent Fort introduced Senate Bill 45, dubbed “Bou Bou’s Law,” which would impose new restrictions on warrants that allow police to enter homes unannounced, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

But this year’s Georgia General Assembly session ended without Bou Bou’s Law actually becoming law, according to state legislative records. The general assembly website showed no action being taken on the bill after it was read and referred Jan. 26, 2015.

The child’s mother, Alecia Phonesavanh, said she and her family were sleeping at her sister-in-law’s residence because their home had burned down in Wisconsin, ThinkProgress reported. Officers stormed the house to execute a “no knock” warrant while searching for Wanis Thoneteva, Alecia Phonesavanh’s 30-year-old nephew, on drug-related charges; he was no longer in the house and was later arrested elsewhere.

A nearly $1 million settlement agreement was subsequently reached between Habersham County and Bou Bou’s family, the Journal-Constitution reported in April 2015, though a family attorney said the case continued to be litigated.

The bill Fort called “Bou Bou’s Law” seeks to allow "no knock" warrants only in cases where the police can show "probable cause that if an officer were to knock and announce identity and purpose before entry, such act of knocking and announcing would likely pose a significant and imminent danger to human life or imminent danger of evidence being destroyed," the Journal-Constitution said. It indicated that rule is stricter than the standard the Supreme Court has said is required by the Fourth Amendment, which is "reasonable suspicion" that knocking and announcing "would be dangerous or futile" or "would inhibit the effective investigation of the crime."

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Georgia State Rep. Kevin Tanner introduced separate legislation – House Bill 56 – that would in most cases have barred the use of no-knock warrants between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., the Journal-Constitution said. Tanner’s proposal also would have required law enforcement agencies to develop written policies and training for the use of the warrants and require a supervising officer to be present when the warrant is executed.

Tanner’s proposal also failed to become law, as Georgia General Assembly records show no action being taken on it after its second reading was held Jan. 26, 2015.

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The Georgia legislature failed to enact Bou Bou's Law this year, legislation pushed for after a 19-month-old baby was severely injured by a Georgia SWAT team.
bou bou, swat, law enforcement
Thursday, 18 June 2015 06:13 PM
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