A Look at Illegal Search and Seizure
The Worth County Sheriff’s Office made headlines recently. The department locked down the campus of Worth County High School without giving prior notice school officials. No one at the school knew what was going on. Over the course of the next four hours, officers conducted a drug sweep of the campus, searching all 900 students present.
The search was ordered by Sheriff Jeff Hobby who, attorneys say, did not have a warrant. In the days following the raid, multiple students filed complaints of being inappropriately groped by deputies. What resulted was a federal civil suit on behalf of the students. In the beginning of October, a grand jury handed down an indictment against the sheriff and two of his deputies. The sheriff is facing charges of false imprisonment, a violation of oath of office and sexual battery.
Along with the sheriff, a deputy is facing charges of violation of oath of office and sexual battery. A second deputy has been indicted on a count of violation of oath of office. For their parts, the sheriff says his department did nothing wrong, claiming that school administrators were aware that the search would take place. Administrators deny the knowledge.
The Fourth Amendment
The large-scale search conducted at the high school brought up questions of the Fourth Amendment and just what it protects. In general terms, the Amendment protects persons of the United States from illegal search and seizure. But just what does that mean?
A person may not be searched nor have their property seized unless a police officer or agency has a valid search warrant or arrest warrant. Additionally, persons or property may be searched if there is probable cause to believe the person has committed a crime. A police officer may not search a person outside of the scenarios, as seems to be the case at the high school.
The purpose of the Fourth Amendment is to prevent instances such as this from occurring. When they do, victims of an illegal search or seizure have a right to file a complaint and, ultimately, a lawsuit seeking damages. As seen in this case, police officers themselves may be charged with a crime if they violate the amendment. The exact charges that may be filed are dependent upon the unique circumstances of the situation.
If you feel that your Fourth Amendment protections have been violated, you have the right to hire an attorney. If there was evidence gathered and used against you for the filing of criminal charges, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to have that evidence suppressed or thrown out of court.
Any person who has been arrested and charged with a crime in DeKalb County requires the representation of a knowledgeable and skilled criminal defense lawyer. If you have found yourself in such a situation, call our office as soon as possible. We will help you schedule a case evaluation and we will assist you in making decisions as they pertain to your case.