Fourth Amendment

The ACLU is Suing D.C. Police for Searching a Home Without a Warrant

The Metropolitan Police Department was in the middle of a legal battle with the family when the warrantless search was conducted.

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The Washington, D.C., chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) for searching a resident's property without a warrant while in the middle of a legal battle over her son's death.

As Reason previously reported, a resident named Jeffrey Price was killed on his illegal dirt bike in a police-involved crash. MPD told Price's family that he was speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road. Witnesses and video from the scene appeared to indicate that an officer named Michael Pearson had actually attempted to use his police SUV to cut Price off on the road. Not only are Pearson's alleged actions the suspected cause of Price's death, but they are also in violation of MPD policy.

Last summer, two officers, identified as Whitehead and Gupton, descended upon a home belonging to Price's mother and conducted a questionable search. The home was in the Deanwood neighborhood on the north side of Ward 7, which is predominately black. This was videotaped by Price's uncle, Jay Brown. The officers told the family that they were searching for a gun that was dumped in the area. They did not produce a warrant when asked. The family has since argued that MPD's search, which occurred in the middle of their legal battle, was a tactic to intimidate Price's family. Brown accused the officers of "conducting themselves like a lawless gang with no supervision" at the time of the incident.

The ACLU issued a press release on Monday stating they sued one of the officers, Joseph Gupton, and the city for violating the Fourth Amendment.

"Safeguarding the home from unjustified police intrusions goes to the core of the Fourth Amendment's purpose," they wrote in the release. "Officer Gupton's warrantless entry violated that guarantee, causing Ms. Price to feel increased anxiety and less safe in her home in light of the fact that officers from the same police department responsible for her son's death apparently feel free to enter her property at any time."

The ACLU previously asked MPD representatives to forgo attendance at a community public safety meeting where residents were expected to voice concerns about the department. The meeting was originally scheduled in response to the search.

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