Some plaintiffs have successfully sued police departments for damages after a destructive search that did not yield any illegal items, but these cases are hard to win unless you have a lawyer.
When police abuse their power, you are entitled to legal remedies. For example, if they search your car without probable cause, and they find illegal items, they cannot use this evidence against you in court. Police searches can be destructive; sometimes you get the feeling that they are destroying your property on purpose, and canine searches can be the most destructive of all. If a police canine trashes your house or car during a search and does not find any evidence of a crime, you can file a civil lawsuit against the police department and recover damages. The criminal defense lawyers at Ghanayem and Rayasam are here to protect the rights of everyone who has been involved in a criminal investigation, not just people who currently have criminal charges pending against them.
The Trouble with Canine Searches
Police dogs used in searches have had extensive training in finding drugs and weapons; they are equally well trained in responding to cues from the officers that employ them. The officers are hardly objective; they will prompt the dogs to keep searching a particular place or item, even if the dog does not detect the scent for which it is looking. An officer might draw a dog’s attention to a suitcase just so the officer has an excuse to open the luggage. Furthermore, a police dog will treat anyone as a suspicious person if its human handler gives it a signal to do so. Even worse, some police canines tasked with searching for drugs and weapons are also trained to apprehend suspects. In other words, they are trained to attack anyone that an officer tells them to attack.
Seeking Damages After a Police Search
If the police found illegal items during the search, especially if the case resulted in a conviction, you are probably out of luck getting reimbursement for the property that the police canines destroyed. Winning a lawsuit against a law enforcement officer or police department when a police dog destroys your property while searching for drugs or weapons is never easy, even if the dog does not find anything illegal during the search. This is because of the doctrine of qualified immunity, which protects police officers from being sued every time someone suffers financial losses as a result of the police simply doing their jobs. In order to win the lawsuit, you would have to show that the officer maliciously and intentionally commanded the dog to destroy your property. The simple fact that you did not have any drugs in your possession does not mean that the police department has to reimburse you. Instead, the test is what a reasonable officer would have done if he or she were in the position of the officer who commanded the dog to search your property.
Ghanayem & Rayasam Criminal Defense Attorneys Stand Up for Your Rights
You are entitled to recover damages for destructive but futile canine searches. A criminal defense lawyer will stand up for your rights in all matters of criminal procedure. Contact Ghanayem and Rayasam in Atlanta, Georgia or call (414)561-0202 for a free consultation.