Charges against teens upheld even though cop admits illegal search
By 11/09/2006 00:00:00
GLENN HEIGHTS - The City of Glenn Heights, according to a local defense attorney, opened themselves up to a possible lawsuit when an officer admitted to violating the fourth amendment of the Texas Constitution.
On June 26, according to reports, Glenn Heights officers responded to a call alleging several underage teenagers were drinking and partying inside a home at 231 Sunset Drive.
Several teenagers were given misdemeanor tickets for minors in possession of alcohol.
Defense attornies Rodney Ramsey and Robin Cole Lane said the charges against their clients should be dropped, because officers obtained the evidence when they entered the home illegally without a search warrant or probable cause.
'In Texas you can't make entry into a house on a misdemeanor charge or misdemeanor warrant,' Ramsey said.
'The search was illegal and improper.'
Ramsey, a former police officer used to teach search and seizure classes to other law enforcement officials, said police could only enter a house without a warrant on felony cases and only if they have probable cause or extenuating circumstances. During a Nov. 2 suppression hearing Glenn Heights Officer Lucas Benson testified after he and Officer Keith Moore arrived at the scene they staked out the residence by hiding behind a neighbor's tree to determine exactly what was happening. Under cross examination by Ramsey, Benson admitted they did not have a search warrant to enter the home.
'I can't just enter a home on a misdemeanor,' Benson said.
He then later admitted, 'I didn't have probable cause,' referring to his entry into the residence.
Prosecutor Dana Huffman argued that officers were allowed to take several things into account for probable cause including why they were originally dispatched to the scene and
the fact that they heard loud music coming from the residence.
An unidentified female was talking on her cell phone as she walked through the gate between the two houses coming from the back yard toward the front yard.
Benson testified she was not carrying a beer can.
He said after identifying himself as a police officer the girl turned around and ran into the back yard.
Both officers followed the girl through the gate.
'What crime had been committed for you to detain a young woman between the houses?' Ramsey asked.
Benson said he followed the girl into the backyard to question her about what was happening in the home.
'I felt if she was able to get inside the house and warn the others, evidence would be destroyed,' Benson said.
Glenn Heights Municipal Judge Kathy Austin ruled against the defense attorneys' motions to drop the charges despite the fact Benson admitted under oath he entered the home without a search warrant or probable cause. Ramsey said he was deeply concerned the ruling would encourage further police misconduct if the officers believed they could make entry into the residences without any probable cause to search. Both attorneys said they would appeal the judge's rulings.