Bad Search Warrants Cost Oakland Millions

Posted July 21, 2010 in Criminal Law by Arthur Buono

The city of Oakland has agreed to pay $2 million dollars to persons whose homes were searched on bogus warrants. A class action claimed that police lied in affidavits submitted to judges in getting the warrants issued. Some of the payouts will go to persons suspected of drug crimes.

 
  • The Constitution requires a warrant to search a home
  • Police lied to judges who issued the warrants
  • Evidence usually thrown out if obtained on a bad warrant

 

Police Lied that Substances Tested as Drugs

Police obtained the warrants to search the homes of over one hundred people. They got the judges to issue the warrants by saying that substances they seized from the homes or the people had been tested at police labs and proved to be narcotics. The substances in fact had not been confirmed as narcotics by the labs as sworn by police.

The Constitution requires a search warrant for the search of a person’s home. A judge can only issue a warrant on a showing of probable cause that the search will reveal evidence of a crime. Police use affidavits – sworn written statements – to say why they believe the evidence will be found in the place to be searched.

The victim of an illegal search sometimes can be compensated for the action, as in this case. More often an illegal search will be used by a criminal defendant to have the evidence seized in the search thrown out of the case. This exclusionary rule is the usual remedy for an illegal search. Even so, sometimes prosecutors can keep the evidence in the case though the warrant proves illegal. For example prosecutors sometimes can show that the evidence would have been discovered by another means eventually.

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