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.

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