ACLU Challenges Excessive and Unlawful Searches by Police in Etowah County, Alabama

The Etowah County Sheriff’s Department has abused its authority by conducting multiple unauthorized searches of a family’s home in flagrant violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

BIRMINGHAM, AL–(ENEWSPF)–September 12, 2013.  On behalf of an anonymous family, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Alabama, and the law firm Jaffe & Drennan today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama against the Etowah County Sheriff and two officers in the Sheriff’s Department. Plaintiffs have been subjected to an ongoing series of unannounced, random, and suspicionless inspections of their home, and they have been threatened with arrest if they fail to cooperate. ACLU attorney Brandon Buskey calls the officers’ actions “unconstitutional harassment.”

Buskey continues: “This is an abuse of police power, pure and simple. These officers are trampling on this family’s constitutional rights, and because this is the Sheriff’s policy, we fear this may be happening over and over again to families around the county.”

One member of the plaintiff family must register with the state of Alabama for having committed a sexual offense as a child. Since his release, he has fulfilled every requirement under Alabama’s Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act. This includes registering in person at the Sheriff Department’s office four times a year, which he has done without fail, and which he must continue to do for the rest of his life.

Yet, the Sheriff’s Department has gone far beyond Alabama law – not to mention the Constitution – in their inspections of the plaintiffs’ home. As Susan Watson of the ACLU of Alabama explains, “The Bill of Rights protects us from these sorts of witch hunts. Nothing in the Registration and Community Notification Act or any other law gives the sheriff’s department license to invade this family’s home without a warrant, or to conduct these inspections without any reason to suspect that the plaintiffs have done something wrong.”

The lawsuit seeks to stop the Sheriff’s Department from continuing its unconstitutional searches of the plaintiffs’ home and to end its broader policy of inspecting the homes of every registrant in county without suspicion. The suit also requests monetary damages for the plaintiffs for the abuse they experienced.

A copy of the ACLU’s complaint is available at: https://www.aclu.org/criminal-law-reform/john-doe-jane-doe-and-james-doe-v-todd-entrekin

Additional information about the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project is available at: https://www.aclu.org/criminal-law-reform/aclu-criminal-law-reform-project

Additional information about the ACLU of Alabama is available at: http://www.aclualabama.org/

Source: aclu.org