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Drug bust: Police ransack Daytona Beach rental home

When police attempt to bust a suspected meth lab, they often move in with overwhelming force. This is a measure taken to ensure that all suspects are taken into custody, and to protect the safety of the officers. But what happens when the police make a mistake, and raid a house that is not a meth lab?

This is the question being asked by one Daytona Beach homeowner, who recently saw his rental home raided by a SWAT unit and the Daytona Beach Police Department's crime suppression team. The police department believed the house to be a meth lab. After breaking into the home, shattering windows and ransacking furniture, however, no methamphetamines were found, only trace amounts of marijuana. The home's three renters were arrested and brought up on drug charges.

Now, the owner of the home is wondering why the police acted with such force. He is also seeking reimbursement for the damage done to his rental home, but as law enforcement officials were quick to point out, he has little legal recourse there.

"We don't have a legal obligation to pay for your property," a local police chief informed him, "Because if you were renting to decent people, not gang members, not people that are out there dealing in dope, we wouldn't have been on your doorstep."

Of course, this logic assumes that the landlord was able to discern whether his renters were "decent people" or not. But the policeman is correct in essentials; nationwide, officers executing a search warrant are not liable for any damage they cause.

Still, the police chief's words will doubtless seem troubling to those three people who were arrested in the raid. According to reports, only a trace amount of marijuana was found in the house. One was arrested for allegedly trying to grab an officer during the raid-an illegal, but understandable, reaction during such a frightening incident.

And yet, the police chief called the three gang members and drug dealers, though there does not appear to be any evidence of such activity. Attorneys representing the three will likely be troubled by the characterization.

In all cases, those who are accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty; convictions must be based on evidentiary support, not simple finger pointing. Defense attorneys can help in such a situation by protecting their clients from characterizations that could hurt their ability to receive a fair ruling.

Source: CFNews13.com, "Landlord wants police to pay for drug bust cleanup," Jason Wheeler, Dec. 15, 2012

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