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Supreme Court to Consider Extent of Police Searches

June 17, 2004  | 

Justices of the Supreme Court have agreed to review the extent to which police can search homes without violating individual constitutional rights.

The Court will review a case in which police officers in Simi Valley, Calif., have been ordered to pay $60,000 to a woman for their involvement in the search of her family’s house in 1998.

Eighteen-year-old Iris Mena was awakened by SWAT team members early on a rainy morning, handcuffed, and held for questioning in her family’s garage while police searched the house for members of the West Side Locos gang, including a man suspected in a shooting.

None of the gang members were found there. Mena was not a suspect in any crime.

A jury determined that her right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures was violated during the incident. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and added that police did not have the right to question Mena’s citizenship by searching for immigration papers. She is a Salvadorian immigrant.

The case, Muehler v. Mena, has been seen by some police officer groups as a possible way for the court to make clear that officers can handcuff and question people while searching their homes.

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