Barbara Arnwine is the executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. But her job title didn’t do her any good on November 21. Three days before Thanksgiving her home was raided by Atlanta police.
The Atlanta lawyer intends to “fight this” but won’t come out and say for certain if this means a civil suit is in the works.
The police had a warrant for the home, which Arnwine shares with her 80 year old mother, two nephews, and her disabled vet son. They were looking for evidence connected to the robbery of a Popeye’s on November 4th. One of the nephews was named on the warrant.
During the three-hour raid, none of the family members (including the elderly mother) were allowed to use the restroom. They were held at gunpoint as officers searched the home.
When Arnwine told the police she was an attorney, they didn’t believe her. When she asked to see the warrant, she was told to “get out of the way.” Perhaps worst of all, when Arnwine cited her rights under the 4th Amendment one officer reportedly said, “The Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply here.”
Unfortunately for him, it does. Even if they had a proper warrant to conduct a search of the home, that search must be conducted with respect to the rights of the people involved—all of the people, even if one is a suspect.
During the search, the police did find a mask similar to the one used in the robbery. They also found a bag containing coins, which was similar to one used in the same robbery. However, evidence of a crime does not in any way minimize the rights of the people involved.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures. It’s because of this amendment that things like search warrants exist. In order for the police to obtain a warrant to search your home, they must get approval from a judge, which only comes when there is probable cause that some evidence of a criminal act will be found on the premises.
Arwine’s job as a civil rights attorney doesn’t make her immune from the law or give her any special privileges. But, on the other hand, her rights and the rights of the people within her home must be respected.
C.K. Hoffler, Arnwine’s attorney, says the behavior of the police during the raid “was just atrocious, even if arguably they had probable cause with respect to the nephew.”
No matter who you are, what your job is, or how much money you make, your rights are on the line when you are dealing with the police. Though they should know how to act in accordance with these rights, one misstep on their part could mean disaster for any criminal case they were hoping to build against you.
Whether you are accused of drug dealing or assault, the cops must be cautious in the gathering and handling of evidence as well as during the execution of your arrest. If you are facing charges and curious about how the officers’ behavior could affect your case, contact us today.