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Colorado Criminal Drug Law – Wrong – Door Raids – When The Police Get It Wrong

By H. Michael Steinberg Colorado Drug Crimes Criminal Defense Lawyer – Attorney

Colorado Criminal Drug Law – Wrong – Door Raids – When The Police Get It Wrong

Criminal Drug Law – Wrong – Door Raids – When The Police Get It Wrong – One of the most dangerous raids conducted by Colorado police – is the nighttime execution of a search warrant in an alleged drug bust.

The Constitutional rights and, more importantly, the very lives and safety of the people that are subjected to these drug raids requires all of us to understand what is happening.

 


We Begin With Your Constitutional Rights – Prohibiting Illegal Search And Seizure

The Fourth Amendment provides:

Amendment IV of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the United States reads as follows:

Searches and Seizures: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated; and no warrant shall be issued, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

The Constitutional Requirements Of A Colorado Search Warrant

In Any Search and Seizure Pursuant to a Search Warrant, the Constitution Prescribes the Following Requirements:

(a) the premises to be searched

(b) particularly described, and

(c) the affiant swear or affirm that they have probable cause to believe the specific property is on the premises and give the reasons for this belief.

A search warrant is a Court Order in writing, in the name of the State of Colorado, signed by an authorized judicial officer, directing a peace officer to search for, and seize, the property listed on the premises named.

Grounds For Issuing A Colorado Search Warrant

A search warrant may be issued by any judge of a court of record of Colorado and it may be issued to search for, and seize, any property:

  • Which is stolen or embezzled; or
  • Which is designed or intended for use as a means of committing a criminal offense;
  • Which is or has been used as a means of committing a criminal offense in this state or in another state; or
  • The possession of which is illegal; or
  • Which would be material evidence in a subsequent criminal prosecution in this state or in another state; or
  • The seizure of which is expressly required, authorized, or permitted by any statute of this state; or
  • Which is kept, stored, maintained, transported, sold, dispensed, or possessed in violation of a statute of this state, under the circumstances involving a serious threat to public safety or order, or to public health.

A Colorado Search Warrant Must Meet These Additional Requirements

A search warrant shall be issued only on affidavit sworn to or affirmed before the judge and relating facts sufficient to:

  • Identify or describe, as nearly as may be, the premises, person, place, or thing to be searched;
  • Identify or describe, as nearly as may be, the property to be searched for, seized, or inspected
  • Establish the grounds for issuance of the warrant, or probable cause to believe that such grounds exist; and
  • Establish probable cause to believe that the property to be searched for, seized, or inspected is located at, in, or upon the premises, person, place, or thing to be searched.

Executing The Colorado Search Warrant

Unless a Judge otherwise directs, the police must “knock and announce” themselves when they execute the warrant. With very few exceptions, a Colorado search warrant authorizes a police officer executing the right to:

To execute and serve the warrant at any reasonable time; and

To use and employ such force as is reasonably necessary in the performance of the duties commanded by the warrant.

There are two well recognized exceptions as described by Professor Pat Furman of the University of Colorado School of Law:

The first exception exists when the warrant expressly authorizes forced entry without announcement.

The second exception exists when circumstances unknown at the time of the application for the warrant, but learned before entry, give the police probable cause to believe that giving notice is likely:

(1) to result in the destruction of evidence,

(2) to endanger life or safety,

(3) to enable a party to be arrested to escape, or

(4) to be a futile gesture.

Understanding The Requirement For Probable Cause

To establish probable cause:

The investigator must present facts and information of the specific case sufficient to satisfy the issuing judge that grounds for the application for the warrant exist.

Probable cause to support the issuance of a search warrant must exist at the time the warrant is sought.

The affiant must state the reasons for the belief that contraband is in a particular building, avoiding conclusions, and the judge must find that there is probable cause for this belief.

Probable cause defined:

Probable cause exists when an affidavit for a search warrant alleges facts sufficient to cause a person of reasonable caution to believe that contraband or evidence of criminal activity is located at the place to be searched.’” Probable cause is determined by the “totality of the circumstances.”

The Use Of An Informer – When Things Go Wrong

Wrong Door Raids are tragic and they can occur when the police rely on information that is either “stale” or inaccurate or both.

Information received through an informant that can support the probable cause required for the issuance of a search warrant must be based on direct observations. The problem is the accuracy of those observations and the communication of those observations to law enforcement

First and foremost, Colorado criminal defense lawyers, attacking search warrants based on informants should obtain the original detailed notes taken by the investigators from interviews with the informant that served as the grounds for the issuance of the search warrant.

To challenges an informant’s “facts” – the methods and manner of the communication of that information, how and even if the alleged facts were analyzed and whether they were reasonable on their face and later corroborated by other matters within the officer’s knowledge.

Examining The Source Of The Probable Cause – The Informant

The reliability of the informant is the key: was he or she “vetted or otherwise tested?” Does the affidavit in support of the search warrant state that “the informant is a person whose information in the past has proven to be reliable.” How many times has the informant provided in the past?

If an informant a “new” informant the mere fact that they provide a “tip” does not amount to probable cause. Their must be some form of corroboration by some independent investigation or knowledge on the part of Colorado law enforcement.

Summary – A Search Warrant On A Home

If a search warrant has been issued:

  • The search must be only at the times provided for in the warrant.
  • Only on the premises described in the warrant are searched.
  • The search must be conducted in strict compliance with the warrant.
  • Only the articles described in the warrant are seized, unless contraband items are discovered and that an inventory of the articles seized is prepared at the location of the search and signed by the officers executing the warrant and witnessed, and a copy left with the owner or left at the place of the search.

Why Do Colorado Search Warrants Go Wrong?

As a result of shoddy police work, an over-reliance on informants, and other problems related to the rush to judgement, raids can be conducted on the wrong addresses. The danger and terror that is the direct result of these botched raids cannot be understated.

In the rush to conduct a search, Colorado police – often SWAT teams, intentionally disregard standard operating procedures governing the use of informants and conducting controlled buys;

“Cookie cutter” or boiler plate affidavits are used where the police fail to do thorough investigations.

Some Tips If The Police Are At Your Door With A Colorado Search Warrant

First note this – the police can search your home only if:

1. They have a warrant

2. They have your consent (or the consent of your roommate or a guest if the police reasonably believe that person has the authority to consent).

3. There is an emergency – recognized by law – to enter your home.

Understand what a search warrant is: A search warrant is a piece of paper signed by a judge giving law enforcement officers permission to make an arrest (an arrest warrant) or to enter a home or other building to do a search (a search warrant).

The search warrant allows the police to enter ONLY the place described in the warrant to look for and take ONLY the items identified in the warrant.

As noted – while the police, if authorized by a Judge, may just break in your door in the middle of the night – they most likely will knock on your door first.

1. Do not open the door – ask through the door if they have a warrant. If they answer no, never open the door – just tell them you want to be left alone and do not want to talk to them – and do NOT answer any questions or say anything other than “I do not want to talk to you.” and “I want a lawyer.”

2. On the other hand, If the police have a warrant, tell them to “to slip it under the door” or place it in front of the peephole or against a window – so that you can look at it. You can also review it by opening the door – (closing it behind you) – and then examining the warrant.

3. If the officers are somehow at the wrong address – tell them there and then how they have mistakenly come to the wrong place.

4. Never consent to a search, no matter what threats you may here.

5. Call your lawyer – or a 24-7 – lawyer as soon as possible.

6. Watch, but do NOT interfere in any way with the search.

7. Write down everything, names, badge numbers, police agencies involved etc.

8. Locate the names and phone numbers of all witnesses to the search who are present.

9. Do not answer ANY questions by the officers.

Summary – Never Cooperate With The Police – They Are There Trying To Make A Case To Prosecute You

An old tactic by Colorado law enforcement, when they do not have a warrant or grounds for a warrant, is to threaten to “come back with a warrant.” Fine, let them … but do not let law enforcement officers search your home.

Your refusal to let them search does not equate to grounds that you have done something illegal. A refusal does not provide evidence of anything other than you know your constitutional rights.

On the other hand, under no circumstances should you EVER interfere with the search even if that search is illegal. If you do – you will be arrested.

Colorado Criminal Drug Law – Wrong – Door Raids – When The Police Get It Wrong

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The reader is admonished that Colorado criminal law, like criminal law in every state and at the Federal level, changes constantly. The article appearing above was accurate at the time it was drafted but it cannot account for changes occurring after it was uploaded.

If, after reading this article, you have questions about your case and would like to consider retaining our law firm, we invite you to contact us at the Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm – 303-627-7777.

Never stop fighting – never stop believing in yourself and your right to due process of law. You will not be alone in court, H. Michael will be at your side every step of the way – advocating for justice and the best possible result in your case. H. Michael Steinberg is passionate about criminal defense. His extensive knowledge and experience of Colorado Criminal Law gives him the edge you need to properly handle your case

H. Michael Steinberg Best Colorado Criminal Defense LawyerABOUT THE AUTHOR: H. Michael Steinberg – Email The Author at:

hmsteinberg@hotmail.com

A Denver Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer – or call his office at 303-627-7777 during business hours – or call his cell if you cannot wait and need his immediate assistance – please call 720-220-2277.

“A good criminal defense lawyer is someone who devotes themselves to their client’s case from beginning to end, always realizing that this case is the most important thing in that client’s life.”

You should be careful to make a responsible choice in selecting a Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer. We encourage you to “vet” our firm. Over the last 35 plus years – by focusing ONLY on Colorado criminal law – H. Michael has had the necessary time to commit to the task of constantly updating himself on nearly every area of criminal law, to include Colorado criminal law and procedure and trial and courtroom practice.

Putting more than 35 years of Colorado criminal defense experience to work for you.

H. Michael works hard to get his clients the best possible results in and out of the courtroom. He has written, and continues to write, extensively on Colorado criminal law and he hopes this article helps you in some small way –

Summary
Colorado Criminal Drug Law - Wrong - Door Raids - When The Police Get It Wrong
Article Name
Colorado Criminal Drug Law - Wrong - Door Raids - When The Police Get It Wrong
Description
One of the most dangerous raids conducted by Colorado police - is the nighttime execution of a search warrant in an alleged drug bust.
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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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