Monday, October 23, 2006

Judge Finds Michigan Rave Raid Arrests Were Unconstitutional - DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE

A judge with the Genesee County Circuit Court in Michigan ruled last week that Flint, Michigan police violated clubgoers' constitutional rights in a 2005 raid.

In March of 2005, law enforcement officers conducted a drug raid at Club What's Next in Flint, Michigan, and arrested 117 people. All the arrestees were strip searched, and 94 who were not found to be in possession of any illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia were charged with "frequenting a drug house."

This charge potentially meant 90 days in jail or a $500 fine for people who were at the club to listen to music, dance and socialize. After the arrests, DPA raised national awareness of the raid and over 3,500 people contacted the Flint City Council to register their disapproval.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan took on the case, arguing that the First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights of those 94 clubgoers were violated. The First Amendment protects the right to free speech, assembly and expression--which includes music and dance--and the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

A District Court ruling last fall sided with law enforcement. That decision said that police had probable cause to arrest the defendants in part because the clubgoers should have known that there would be drug use at the club based on its association with rave culture.

The Circuit Court's reversal states that "the finding of probable cause was based on no more than mere assumption."

DPA welcomed the Circuit Court ruling. "This decision sends an important message to law enforcement around the country that it's unconstitutional to prosecute people based on their musical taste," said Bill Piper, DPA's director of national affairs.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Drug Raids: Michigan Judge Rules Flint Rave Raid Arrests Unconstitutional - DRUG WAR CHRONICLE

from Drug War Chronicle, Issue #458, 10/20/06

In March 2005, police in Flint, Michigan, burst into Club What's Next late one Friday night after witnessing a few instances of drug sales in or near the club and marijuana smoking inside the club, which was holding a rave party. Although police found drugs or paraphernalia on only 23 people (despite strip searches and body cavity searches), they arrested all 117 persons present at the scene. The remaining 94 people were charged with "frequenting a drug house," a misdemeanor offense.

Last Friday, a Genesee Circuit Court judge threw out those arrests, holding that Flint police had violated the constitutional rights of the club-goers. In his decision, Judge Joseph Farah held that police lacked probable cause to arrest people merely for being in the club.

"The District Court erred in finding probable cause to arrest these defendants," Farah wrote in his decision. "To allow to stand the arrests of these 94 defendants would be to allow lumping together people who had been at the club for five minutes or five hours, people who never stopped dancing with those who sat next to a drug deal, people who sat at a table facing the wall with those in the middle of the mischief, and charge those dissimilarly present individuals with equal awareness and knowledge of wrongdoing."

The ACLU of Michigan, which represented the 94 people arrested for being present, greeted the decision with pleasure. "The ordinance under which the arrests were made is in place to protect Flint citizens from actual drug houses. It was never intended to be randomly deployed by the police against law-abiding citizens who go out to clubs to hear music and socialize," said Michigan ACLU executive director Kary Moss in a statement issued the same day. "Judge Joseph Farah's decision vindicates the constitutional rights of our clients and sends a strong message to police departments across the country."

"Judge Farah's opinion correctly concludes that the police had no business arresting any of them," said Ken Mogill, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Michigan who argued the case with Elizabeth Jacobs. "This is a gratifying victory for each of those law-abiding, wrongly arrested individuals and for the rule of law in our community."

Monday, October 16, 2006

Vote "No" For A Better Wisconsin

On November 7th, Wisconsin voters we will be asked whether to change the Wisconsin Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships. Same sex marriage is already illegal in Wisconsin. And it is criminal for same-sex partners to get married somewhere else and seek to have Wisconsin recognize the marriage. Voting “no” to the amendment will not legalize same sex marriage.

So, if same-sex marriage is already illegal why does the vote matter? It matters because if the amendment passes, we will tell groups of our citizens that we want to make hatred transparent. The amendment would tell entrepreneurs and businesses that we don’t want them to be able to decide how to run their companies. If the amendment passes we will guarantee that communities will spend tax dollars to litigate complicated legal questions that put rights of elderly couples, unmarried couples and children at risk. Voting “no” isn’t simply a “gay rights” issue; voting “no” supports small government and equality in Wisconsin while protecting our pocketbooks from litigation and lost business revenue.

The amendment would create bad law. Enacting a law with the specific purpose to alienate an unpopular group is precisely what the Constitution is designed to prevent. When the Constitution has been amended, it has been for traditionally only two purposes: to modify basic political structure or to expand individual rights. Enactment of this amendment would be the first time in Wisconsin history that the drastic process of amending the State constitution, would be for the purpose of limiting, rather than expanding, individual liberty. This would be a landmark change in constitutional functioning. It would be a change contrary to the history of Wisconsin’s Constitution since we received Statehood. Given that same-sex marriage is already illegal, there is no justification for taking this drastic step. If you do not want to create a slippery slope that puts the function of our constitution at risk to the detriment of minorities, then you should vote “no.”

The amendment would also throw a number laws into question, leaving the court system to sort out the new messes that the amendment would create. This costs tax payers money and put the rights of our neighbors in jeopardy. As examples:

* The amendment would cast into doubt the protection of children with unmarried and same-sex parents, with respect to issues such as guardianship and co-parenting agreements.

* The amendment casts into doubt the ability of unmarried and same-sex couples to appoint their partners as their health care power of attorney to assist with their difficult end-of-life decisions.

* The amendment may also invalidate wills and other estate planning tools used by a unmarried individuals to direct their assets to their partner, upon their passing.

* Employee benefit plans which provide benefits to unmarried designated partners (both same sex and straight couples) would be put at risk and may be invalidated.

These uncertainties are bad for Wisconsin’s economy. Wisconsin struggles to attain and maintain its top young talent. Our State needs to be in a position to attract new business. The statistics show us that businesses want to show that they are inclusive, so that they can obtain the best talent regardless of characteristics such as race, religion, marital status or sexual orientation. Over 7,469 employers throughout the country offer domestic partner benefits, as do over 40% of Fortune 500 companies. More than 90 Wisconsin employers offer same sex benefits, including 6 of Wisconsin’s 20 largest private companies. The second sentence of the proposed amendment prevents businesses from deciding what benefits they choose to offer which will discourage businesses from relocating to Wisconsin. It would also prohibit current businesses from being able to offer the benefits that they choose; disenfranchising current employees. Attracting young talent to Wisconsin will be more difficult if the amendment passes. If you do not want Wisconsin to shut its doors to business and the tax support that it creates, vote “no.”

Finally, voting “no” does not put one’s one own marriage at risk, nor does it offend religious values. This is not about same-sex marriage which is already illegal - voting “no” means that you choose not to make an unneeded statement of hatred, you choose not to create legal havok to put our neighbor’s rights at risk, and you choose to protect our economy. Voting “no” to the amendment is a vote for a better Wisconsin. Marriage can be protected by taking dancing lessons together and leaving the Constitution alone.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Club patrons' rights violated, judge rules - Flint JOURNAL

In March 2005, I posted about the police raid of Club What's Next in Flint, Michigan. I consulted on 4th Amendment issues on behalf of the defense team. Click here, here and here for details. Earlier this week Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farah found the the Flint police did not have probable cause to arrest the 94 people who were cited as patrons of a disorderly house. The police tactic was similar to that use by law enforcement in a raid of a Racine, WI electronic music event in 2002. For details about the 2002 raid click here.

THE FLINT JOURNAL FIRST EDITION
Saturday, October 14, 2006

JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

FLINT - A Genesee County Circuit Court judge on Friday ruled that Flint police violated the rights of 94 people who were arrested during a March 20, 2005 raid at a Flint night club, according to a statement from the ACLU of Michigan.

The ACLU said Circuit Judge Joseph Farah determined that police did not have probable cause to arrest the 94 people after officers busted an alleged rave party at Club What's Next, 2511 W. Pasadena Ave.

Police officers testified that people were openly using and selling drugs in the club before the raid.

Ecstasy, LSD and a psychedelic mushroom were found inside the club, police said.

People at the club were charged with frequenting a drug house, but Farah said allowing the arrests to stand would lump together people who had been at the club "for five minutes or five hours," said the ACLU.

The misdemeanor charge carried a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail.

Farah's decision did not affect the cases against 23 people who were arrested for drug or paraphernalia violations.

City officials could not be reached for comment late Friday.