The Fourth Amendment is supposed to ensure that law enforcement cannot conduct unjustified searches of a person or his home. Your house is particularly sacrosanct, as you have the ultimate expectation of privacy when you are in your own home. This is why it is so unbelievable that a federal judge recently ruled that a SWAT raid was justified based on shopping at a gardening store and drinking tea.
If you have police show up at your home, you must act quickly so you can protect your rights. You should call a lawyer right away so you can find out how to respond to the search that was conducted. If any evidence was obtained, your attorney can also challenge the constitutionality of the search and try Washington Post to help you keep evidence from being used against you. Bukh Law Firm, PLLC can provide you with the legal advice you need to respond to a search warrant and any criminal charges which result from a search of your vehicle or premises.
Federal Judge Says SWAT Raid Justified
reported on a troubling case in which a private home was searched as a result of a visit to a garden store and drinking tea. The private home actually belonged to former CIA-analysts and the raid occurred in April of 2012 when the family of four (the two CIA analysts and their two children) awoke to pounding on their door. SWAT agents flooded the home, and the family of four was held at gunpoint for more than two hours as their home was searched.
The agents were reportedly looking for evidence of a marijuana growing operation, but the police stayed for two hours despite later acknowledging that they became aware within 20 minutes that they wouldn’t find such an operation. They found no evidence that any criminal activity had occurred, but they justified the lengthy search by saying they had switched to looking for evidence of personal marijuana use.
The agents obtained the search warrant after an investigation that had occurred seven months before the SWAT raid. A state trooper was staked out outside of a garden store to collect the license plate numbers of customers and to send those plate numbers to the local sheriff’s department for further investigation. The family visited the garden store during the stakeout, which was part of an operation called Operation Constant Gardener, and their license plate was recorded.
The sheriff’s department subsequently sent deputies out to sort through the garbage of the family and claimed that this search turned up saturated plant material, which they said could potentially be marijuana. Drug tests were conducted on the saturated plant material, which was actually tea leaves, and the tests inexplicably turned up evidence of THC. It was these tests that justified the SWAT raid.
Unfortunately, investigations have showed that the lab tests performed on the saturated plant material are very unreliable and tend to come up positive in any situation where police need them to, including in situations where the tested materials include chocolate chip cookies, spearmint, dough, deodorant, breath mints, and flour.
After the raid on the private home, which turned up nothing, police held a press conference touting their success in targeting drug grow houses. Police even claimed they had turned up drug activity in good neighborhoods, and included in the neighborhood of the CIA-analysts.
The couple sought information on what had occurred, but found the sheriff department wouldn’t turn over much information. They ended up having to hire a lawyer and incurred more than $25,000 in legal fees. After they found out what happened, they sued- but their case was dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge who found the search was justified.
This case is an egregious example of how law enforcement is increasingly looking for ways to limit the Fourth Amendment protections to conduct unlawful searches. Defendants need to make sure they do everything they can to protect themselves when they are suspected of a crime or when a search is conducted. Contacting a New York City criminal defense lawyer at Bukh Law Firm, PLLC is the first step towards protecting your rights.