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¡No Se Deje!
A Federal jury in San José, California awarded $3.2 million dollars to a family because police officers wrongfully removed their 3 children from their home. The parents and the children were unlawfully deprived of their right to live together for approximately 18 months. The evidence established that police officers entered the family’s home without a legally required search or arrest warrant. This case illustrates the reason that the law requires, with few exceptions, police officers to obtain a judicially ordered warrant before entering or searching a person’s home or other property or taking a person into custody.
When government or police officials believe that certain activities or circumstances indicate that a crime has been committed, the U. S. Constitution requires them to present their evidence to a judge. The judge then decides if the evidence establishes “probable cause” to believe that a crime has been committed and that the suspect probably did it. This protects every person in this country, regardless of immigration status, from “unreasonable searches and seizures”.
Court records revealed that police officers had been informed that the 8 year old daughter had exhibited improper sexual actions and used unusual words for her age in her classroom. She also mentioned that she bathed with her father. Police officers said that they became further concerned and suspicious when her father refused to cooperate with them. The city attorney, Rick Doyle, admitted that the police officers should have obtained a judicially authorized warrant but insisted that “police have a right to retrieve children if they are in immediate danger.” While this is true, if the police are wrong in concluding that the situation qualifies for an exception to getting a warrant, the victims can sue and receive compensation. That is precisely what happened here.
When the family moved to Napa 18 months later, social workers reviewed the basis for the removal of the children and quickly returned them to the parents. This confirmed the parents’ belief that the removal was improper. The family filed a lawsuit against the city of San José, the San José Police Department, the County and school officials. The County and school officials agreed to a settlement payment to the family. The city of San José refused to pay and elected to have the case decided by a jury.
The jury unanimously decided that the police officers did not have enough evidence to justify entering the family home without a warrant or to take the children from their home and parents. The jury also decided that the police officers violated the parents’ and children’s’ constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. They also determined that the police officers violated the family’s constitutional right to be free from governmental taking of their life, liberty or property without due process of law. The family made a powerful and persuasive argument when they established that their daughter never told anyone that she had been sexually abused and that there was no evidence of abuse. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®
JESS J. ARAUJO, ESQ.