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from the adding-insulting-of-rights-to-shooting-injuries dept

It’s not sufficient that legislation enforcement can seize property if it pretends it should be linked to some prison endeavor, even when the cops cannot be bothered to really discover any direct proof of stated prison endeavor… and even convey fees in opposition to forfeiture victims. It’s not sufficient that just about something may be seized when accompanied by prison fees, which might result in officers stripmining somebody’s residence whereas serving warrants.

When alleged criminals are tough to search out, typically the cops simply take stuff from crime victims. Multiple individuals are suing the Baltimore Police Department for grabbing all kinds of property from taking pictures victims whereas they had been hospitalized and recovering from their accidents.

It would appear these seizures can be unlawful, however the Baltimore PD pretends it is all about rounding up proof — even when stated “evidence” has nothing to do with the crime being investigated.

On an unusually heat spring night within the early days of Covid-19, Amber Spencer turned out to have a good time her boyfriend’s birthday at a entrance stoop cookout in East Baltimore.

Suddenly, bullets flew, hitting her within the chest. When she turned to run, a bullet struck the again of her head and lodged itself in her cranium. Then Spencer misplaced consciousness.

“When I came to, I had been shot in the head. I asked, ‘Where’s my phone?’ and my mom said, ‘The police took it,’” she stated.

And as soon as this property is gone, it is gone. The BPD has little interest in giving up what it is taken, even when the crime is now not being investigated.

To date, not one of the plaintiffs or their family members have been in a position to get their property again though not one of the 4 is accused of a criminal offense.

It’s not simply telephones. It’s no matter crime victims occurred to have on them once they had been assaulted by precise criminals. This is from the lawsuit [PDF] in search of to have these seizures discovered unconstitutional.

Plaintiff Damon Gray is a 23-year-old Black man who resides within the City of Baltimore, Maryland. On June 29, 2019, a stranger shot Mr. Gray roughly seven instances within the again, neck, and chest whereas Mr. Gray was strolling in and round Catherine Street within the southwest space of Baltimore. Mr. Gray was transported by ambulance to the hospital the place BPD officers seized with out consent his cellphone, a bracelet, a necklace, and a number of other articles of clothes. These objects stay in BPD custody.

While it is doable the clothes might need some evidentiary relevance by way of recreating the crime and performing ballistic examinations, it is tough to see how a telephone provides something to the evidentiary combine, a lot much less the sufferer’s jewellery.

This is not an aberration.

Plaintiff Amber Spencer is a 27-year-old Black lady who resides within the County of Baltimore, Maryland. Just earlier than midnight on March 20, 2020, a stranger shot Ms. Spencer within the head and chest whereas she was attending a cookout close to 1800 North Chapel Street in Baltimore, Maryland. After the taking pictures, Ms. Spencer was transported by ambulance to Johns Hopkins Hospital, the place BPD officers seized her private property with out her consent, together with her cellphone, denims, shirt, sneakers, automobile key, and roughly $400 in U.S. foreign money. These objects stay in BPD custody.

The identical questions are raised right here, however with the addition of sneakers (the sufferer was shot within the chest and head), automobile keys, one more telephone, and $400 in money that can’t probably have something to do with the prison act being investigated.

Plaintiff Faye Cottman is a 36-year-old Black lady who resides within the City of Baltimore, Maryland. On March 14, 2019, a lady that Ms. Cottman didn’t know shot Ms. Cottman and her then-11-year-old son within the head whereas he was enjoying along with his brother at a playground within the Cherry Hill space of Baltimore, Maryland. BPD officers arrived on the scene and seized Ms. Cottman’s private property with out consent, together with her jacket, cellphone, wig, and sneakers. Despite quite a few unsuccessful makes an attempt to reclaim her private property from BPD, these things stay in BPD custody.

Once once more, this seems to be BPD officers taking all of a hospitalized particular person’s belongings after which refusing to return them.

One extra time:

Plaintiff Audrey Carter is a 58-year-old Black lady who resides within the City of Baltimore, Maryland. On June 9, 2018, her son, Dwayne D. Cheeks, was shot and killed within the 2200 Block of Germania Avenue in Baltimore City. BPD officers seized, inventoried, and logged within the Evidence Control Unit (“ECU”) all of Mr. Cheeks’s results, together with his driver’s license, cellphone, a lottery ticket, keys, and money.

In this case, the sufferer’s mom was in a position to discuss the BPD into giving her again her son’s money. That occurred in December 2019, a year-and-a-half after officers took management of it. The BPD refused to present again anything officers took. Worse, the division claimed the remainder of “evidence” officers had seized had been destroyed.

Not solely did officers take property, however they took benefit of unconscious taking pictures victims in different methods. Faye Cottman’s telephone was warrantlessly searched by officers whereas she recovered from surgical procedure. The officers claimed the telephone was “evidence,” remarked that they had been in a position to search “pretty far back” in her messages to see if she had had any communications with the taking pictures suspect, after which refused to present the telephone again regardless of closing the investigation in September 2019.

In some instances, victims weren’t given stock lists of the property seized or any receipt displaying the BDP had taken their property, making it extraordinarily tough to speak the division into giving them again their stuff. In different instances, officers and detectives stonewalled requests, citing COVID insurance policies or ongoing investigations. Even when investigations concluded, the BPD made no effort to return seized property. And, within the case described above, the BPD destroyed property officers knew was being sought by its earlier homeowners, in direct contravention of their very own proof insurance policies.

The justifications for these seizures do not work. And if the BPD expects crime victims to consider officers are working in good religion, it could guarantee property is returned as quickly as an investigation concludes. It would additionally search consent from totally cognizant crime victims, quite than stripping them of their belongings whereas they endure surgical procedure or get well from their wounds. And in the event that they actually need to see the contents of somebody’s telephone, they should acquire warrants supported by possible trigger, quite than making the most of conditions the place crime victims cannot really present consent to have interaction in warrantless searches.

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Filed Under: baltimore, baltimore pd, civil asset forfeiture, proof, police, theft

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