Many of our clients come to us at first feeling hopeless about their situation: either they have had an attorney that does not care, or does not know how to fight a search warrant that contains lies or misrepresentations in it. They often ask “What can we do? It’s our word against the police!”
There are many different types of lies or misrepresentations in search warrants. Some of these can be rather minor such as a typographical error, others can be absolutely major. For instance, we recently had ALL evidence from the search of a client’s home suppressed. The police officers had found a significant amount of methamphetamine AND a full, functioning, meth lab on the property.
How does this happen?
Well, we start with a complete review of the facts of the case, the search warrant, and attack from there. In the case mentioned above, State v. Lauren Jones out of Cuyahoga County, the search warrant had information from a confidential reliable informant that a black woman in Cleveland was selling meth. That’s it. No information about where this person lived or how they knew. After that, a number of people said someone, who were not our client, were doing the same thing. With few other details in the warrant we were able to have it suppressed. The case is now pending on appeal.
Legality of Police Searches
All of us have the right to be free from illegal searches and seizures – but what does that mean? It means that unless you give the police permission to search, or give the police a reason to believe you are doing something illegal, the police are not allowed to search your person, car, or home. Often, people worry that they might “upset” the cops if they refuse to let them search their trun; they do this even knowing that they have illegal drugs, or other criminal evidence in the trunk.
Refuse to allow the police to search your car and your home.
The police may be rude, they may threaten you, or they may promise to help you if you just let them search your house or “tell them where the drugs are.” I assure you the police do not want to help you, they want to arrest you – they want to convict you of a crime. That is their job: to gather the evidence they believe you have. If the police had a reason to search your home that did not require your permission they would already be searching the home – not asking your permission.
But what if they threaten me?
At all times you should make sure you are being polite, courteous, and cordial with the officers. Do not give them a reason to arrest you, if you do they can then proceed to search you and your car. It is best to simply say “I want to cooperate but let me get my attorney on the phone first.” This way you can talk to someone who actually has your best interests at heart, not someone that wants you to help convict you.
But is the search legal?
It depends – if you gave permission then the search will almost always be legal. If the police did not have a reason to search, if they did not see you committing a crime, and do not have a warrant then the search might be illegal. It is important to talk to a criminal defense attorney about your rights and how you should be defended from the government.
As a former prosecutor, I can tell you how important it is to have a criminal lawyer who understands how to attack a bad search warrant. Often, the police use a warrant that has serious defects to it. These defects can lead to the case being significantly reduced or dismissed. There are several ways that a warrant can be bad. It might not be based on sufficient information such as information that identifies you, and your house, as being connected to a crime.
The police cannot simply say that they want to search a house, they must present some evidence to a judge. In other cases the search warrant might be stale – or old. The police cannot just obtain a search warrant and wait, and wait, and wait. The police must act within the time that the court gave them to search your house.
If you would like to learn more about how we can help you defeat lies and misrepresentation in a Cleveland search warrant, give us a call. The call is confidential and without any obligation