State Courts Slap Down Cops on Outrageous Over-the-Top Pot Raids
At just past 6:45 a.m. on April 9, 2014, a SWAT unit of at least six heavily armed deputies appeared on the front doorstep of Falcon’s residence to execute a search warrant. Less than an hour earlier, the deputies had all been briefed on the fact that Falcon lived in the residence with his family, which included an adolescent son and a teenage daughter. Notwithstanding the nature of the suspected offense, the deputies had no reason to believe that there were any weapons in the residence or that Falcon was armed and dangerous; his criminal history consisted of one arrest for driving under the influence. The deputies also had no reason to believe that Falcon knew that they were coming, that anyone inside the residence was at risk of harm, or that Falcon or his family might try to escape or destroy evidence.
Not only were the cops overly aggressive given the totality of the circumstances, Rothstein-Youakim concluded, they violated the "knock and announce" law by announcing their presence, but then breaking down the door "with such haste that the occupant does not have a reasonable opportunity to respond."The court reversed Falcon's conviction for maintaining a marijuana grow house.In the Michigan case, the state Supreme Court reached a similar conclusion, throwing out the convictions of two Kent County jail guards for possessing marijuana-infused butter after Kent County narcotics agents conducted predawn raids without warrants on their homes. One raid came at 4am and the other at 5:30am.The Kent County narcs insisted the warrantless raids were proper because they were only doing "knock and talk" interactions with the suspects. Under the state's "knock and talk" law, police can go to someone's home without a warrant and engage them in hopes of turning up suspicious behavior. In these cases, heavily armed police appeared in the middle of the night, demanded entrance to the homes, and the intimidated homeowners and their families consented to the search.The jail guards later challenged the legality of those searches, and in a unanimous decision, the state Supreme Court agreed the searches were unlawful:
In these cases, the police officers exceeded the scope of the implied license to knock and talk because the officers approached defendants’ respective homes without warrants during the predawn hours; therefore, the officers trespassed on Fourth-Amendment-protected property. And because the officers trespassed while seeking information about defendants’ alleged possession of marijuana butter, they performed searches in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
In the wake of that ruling, the trial judge in the case ruled last month that the marijuana-infused butter seized in the raids could not be used as evidence because police had violated the Fourth Amendment's proscription against unwarranted searches and seizures.Police conduct thousands of these SWAT-style drug raids each year. In rare cases, the resort to paramilitarized SWAT teams to go after drug suspects in middle of the night raids resembling combat operations may be justified, but in all too many cases, they amount to dangerous overkill. It's a shame that elected officials fail to rein them in, but at least some state courts still uphold the Constitution.
- Hard to Believe: Pennsylvania Cops Abuse Senior Couple Because they Think Hibiscus Is Marijuana
- Analysis Shows Pot Will NOT Kill You, But Cops Arresting You For It Definitely Can
- Google Should Follow Apple's Lead and Remove Video Games Glorifying the Drug War in the Philippines
Syndicated from AlterNet.org Main RSS Feed which can be read here.