The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled 2-1 that police officers searching a couple’s house for marijuana could not shoot two of the occupants’dogs because they were unlicensed. This enables the occupants to proceed with a suit to protect their Fourth Amendment right by claiming that there was illegal seizure and they are entitled to due to process before the dogs are seized. A third dog shot by an officer is not before the courts.
According to reports, the Detroit couple lived as squatters in their residence when police raided it in 2016. The police had obtained a search warrant after a tip was left on a narcotics hotline and an undercover drug deal was conducted at the residence. Two pit bulls were shot in separate attacks on the officers. A rottweiler locked in the bathroom was shot through a bathroom door — officers claimed the animal was in an attack posture when they peered through a crack of a slightly ajar door.
Rulings in the case
A federal lower court judge dismissed the case in August 2017, determining that the couple did not have legitimate possession of the dogs if they were unlicensed. At that time, the judge said that the case could proceed if legitimate possessory interest could be determined. It was determined that owners are entitled to process before the dogs are seized, which means that they retain property interest in the dogs. This now enables the case of illegal search and seizure to proceed.
The couple also claims it is entitled to damages from law enforcement for killing of their pets. The Circuit Court agreed with this assessment, pointing out that the officers used unnecessary force to control the animals.
Attorneys protect the rights of defendants
Regardless of the charges, defendants are innocent until proven guilty. They are also entitled to due process, regardless of the circumstances behind their charges. Attorneys can help victims of illegal search and seizure to ensure that clients’ rights are protected throughout the process.