Search and Seizure

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Butte's medical marijuana growing and distribution policy is challenged

Location: 
CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Oroville Mercury-Register (CA)
URL: 
http://www.orovillemr.com/news/ci_5761505

Pleas won't end probe of Atlanta police

Location: 
Atlanta, GA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
URL: 
http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/atlanta/stories/2007/04/27/0427metjohnston.html

Drugs police raid great-grandmother's home

Location: 
United Kingdom
Publication/Source: 
The Times (UK)
URL: 
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article1710249.ece

LAPD skid row searches found unconstitutional

Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Los Angeles Times
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-downtown25apr25,0,2444457.story?coll=la-home-local

Search and Seizure: Supreme Court Takes Up Rights of Vehicle Passengers

When police pull over the driver of a vehicle, are they also "seizing" the vehicle's passengers? That's the question the US Supreme Court pondered Monday as it heard oral arguments (transcript here) in the case of a California man arrested on methamphetamine charges after the vehicle in which he was riding was pulled over. Questions from the justices suggested they would not feel free to leave if they were passengers in a vehicle pulled over by police, and if that sentiment holds, the court could rule that passengers have the right to make Fourth Amendment challenges to any evidence seized and used against them.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/supremecourt1.jpg
US Supreme Court
The case pits the state of California against Bruce Brendlin, a former convict wanted for parole violation. Brendlin was a passenger in a car pulled over ostensibly to inspect possibly expired inspection tags. The officer recognized Brendlin, arrested him, searched the car, found methamphetamine supplies, and added a drug offense to the charges.

Brendlin eventually pleaded guilty, but appealed on the ground that the evidence should have been suppressed because the traffic stop was later found to be bogus. (The officer already knew the tags were good because he had stopped the car earlier that same day). The California Supreme Court rejected Brendlin's appeal, holding that only the driver had been "seized" during the traffic stop -- not Brendlin -- and thus Brendlin had no basis for challenging an illegal search.

Brendlin's attorney, Elizabeth Campbell, told the court that when a police officer pulls over a vehicle, "he seizes not only the driver of the car but also the car and every person and everything in that car."

California Deputy Attorney General Clifford Zall argued that it is only the driver, not the passenger, who is "seized" because it is the driver who submits to the officer's authority. That caused some skepticism among the justices, a majority of whom indicated through their comments that they believe passengers as well as the driver are "seized." That is also the position of the courts in most states.

While Brendlin appears likely to prevail on this issue, he is still likely to be imprisoned as a parole violator. Still, what would likely be a symbolic victory for Brendlin could become a substantive victory for the rest of us.

Drug prohibition — lost liberty, money

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Observer (NY)
URL: 
http://www.observertoday.com/articles.asp?articleID=11332

A case of mistaken prosecution

Location: 
CO
United States
Publication/Source: 
Capitol Hill Blue (VA)
URL: 
http://www.capitolhillblue.com/cm/content/view/1109/174/

Sheriff’s group: Ruling will hurt drug investigations

Location: 
Charleston, WV
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Herald-Dispatch (WV)
URL: 
http://www.herald-dispatch.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070331/NEWS01/703310326/1001/NEWS10

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Beat the Heat: How to Handle Encounters With Law Enforcement," by Katya Komisaruk (2003, AK Press, 192 pp., $16.00 PB)

We don't usually review books except when they're hot off the press, but we're making an exception with attorney Katya Komisaruk's "Beat the Heat." This is the best legal self defense book we've seen in some time and we think our readers need to know about it.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/beat-the-heat-cover.jpg
It's a sad commentary on our society that we need books that tell us how to protect ourselves from the police. But with the number of drug arrests each year climbing inexorably toward the two million mark, and with drug prohibition being, in our view, morally indefensible, those of us who use illicit substances (or have friends or loved ones that do) need all the protection we can get.

This book will help drug users avoid arrest. I won't be shy: I think this is a good thing. Call it applying the principles of harm reduction to the US criminal justice system. While we acknowledge the possible harms drug users can incur to themselves or inflict upon others, we think the harms of being arrested, and quite possibly imprisoned, far exceed those of drug use. People who harm others can be punished under other kinds of laws than those that criminalize drugs. Anything that can throw some sand in the gears of the drug war machine is something to cheer.

"Beat the Heat" throws sand in the gears of the drug war machine. It does so by teaching its readers how to exercise their basic constitutional rights. That's another sad commentary in itself. We have a prohibitionist drug policy that relies on citizens knowingly or unknowingly waiving their rights in the face of intimidating uniformed men with guns. After all, it's not like drug use or sales is a crime where there is a complaining victim. Nor do drug users or sellers normally flaunt their contraband items. The only way many drug arrests are made is by people letting the police browbeat them into doing something stupid -- like admitting they smoke pot or allowing the police to search their vehicle when they know there are illicit items within.

Katya Komisaruk shows you how to exercise your rights in an easy-to-read, down-to-earth fashion, complete with illustrated scenarios where she shows you what you did wrong and what to do instead. It's not rocket science: Never talk to the police, she advises, and never consent to a search. You've got nothing to gain and plenty to lose.

The police aren't talking to you to make idle chit-chat. They are investigating, looking for possible crimes, and the more you open your mouth, the greater the chances of ending up in jail. In response to police requests to talk, Komisaruk recommends this phrase: "Am I free to go?"

If the answer is "yes," then go. If the answer is "no," you are already being detained or arrested. The correct answer to all further inquiries from police is: "I'm going to remain silent. I'd like to see a lawyer."

And when it comes to requests to search you, your home, or your vehicle, the answer is always: "I do not consent to a search."

These are basic constitutional rights, and it seems simple to exercise them. But police are experts in getting people to waive their rights. A valuable portion of "Beat the Heat" is devoted to explaining just how police get people to waive their rights -- intimidation, false friendliness, lies -- and how to avoid falling into those traps.

But "Beat the Heat" is much more than just how not to get busted. It's also a primer for those who have been arrested and are now facing the tender mercies of the criminal justice system. Komarisuk covers it all, from getting out on bail to working with your lawyer to what to do if all else has failed and you're headed for prison. There's also a chapter on how to witness and accurately report police misconduct, as well as chapters on the legal rights of minors and non-citizens.

Don't get me wrong: "Beat the Heat" is not written as a book to help drug users stay out of jail. Nor is it a diatribe against the drug war. It merely teaches people how to protect themselves from unnecessary arrest by knowing their rights and how to effectively exercise them. And that makes it a book that helps drug users stay out of jail. I'm all for that.

There are 20 million drug users abroad in the land today. If you are one or know one, you need to get this book. Komisaruk will make it easy for you to understand what you need to do to protect yourself.

Law Enforcement: Atlanta Police Change Policies in Wake of Fatal Drug Raid

The Atlanta Police Department has announced a series of policy changes in the wake of a botched November drug raid that left a 92-year-old woman dead and three undercover officers wounded. According to Chief Richard Pennington, the changes are necessary to protect both citizens and officers in cases where police are relying on informants.

In the November raid in which Kathryn Johnston was shot and killed after opening fire on undercover officers breaking down her door, police said a confidential informant led them to the home. The man police named as the informant has since denied leading them there and has said police asked him to lie about it after the raid occurred.

Fulton County prosecutors have said they will pursue murder indictments against the officers involved. The FBI is also investigating.

"I think a lot of times, some of these things could have been avoided" had the new reforms been in place, Pennington told a downtown press conference Tuesday.

While the federal investigation continues, Pennington said the department would not wait to implement reforms. "We're going to wait for the FBI investigation, but I thought it was incumbent on us to see what we can do to ensure this is not going to happen again," he said.

Pennington said the department would nearly double the size of its narcotics unit, from 16 to 30 officers, and will rotate them off the drug squad every few years to prevent complacency. [Editor: They're increasing the size of the unit after they killed a 92-year old woman?!?!? Doubling it?!?!?!?!?!?] The department will also drug test all 1,800 of its officers.

More to the point, Pennington announced that all applications for "no-knock" warrants, like that obtained in the Johnston case, must now be approved by officers with the rank of major or higher. Applications for regular search warrants must now be approved by an officer with the rank of lieutenant or higher. Previously, lower ranking officers could approve "no-knock" warrants and drug raids.

Also, police supervisors must now witness any payments to confidential informants, and informants must now undergo "integrity checks" to ensure their truthfulness. Police must now photograph informants as they enter a drug location to make a buy, Pennington added.

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