Earlier this week in Tampa, a man died of gunshot wounds that occurred during a SWAT team’s execution of a search warrant at his home. Police reportedly opened fire upon the man when he pointed a handgun at them from a bedroom. Those officers are currently on administrative leave until an investigation is complete, which is a standard procedure in such cases.
The man had reportedly been under investigation for a number of months by undercover officers. In all likelihood, the officers did nothing wrong during the investigation, specifically with respect to opening fire upon him. What is bothersome is the fact that officers sold the man marijuana on multiple occasions, presumably to be able to heap up charges against him. This kind of strategy meshes well with the logic of law enforcement, which involves getting the most legal ammunition against a suspect as possible before dropping the bomb, but it is debatable whether this is a good use of public resources.
Execution of search warrants is a big legal topic in and of itself. Police have specific rules governing how they may and may not obtain and execute search warrants. In addition to needing an adequate basis for a search warrant, the warrant itself must be written in a specific way and executed properly. Police officers do not always perform their duties properly when executing search warrants and this can lead to legal troubles for prosecutors attempting to try a criminal case.
Those accused of crimes involving a search warrant, particularly drug crimes, really need to have an experienced attorney look at their case and evaluate whether any issues may be at play with respect to police investigation. These issues do not come up in every case, of course, but they do often enough that it is an important area to examine in building a criminal defense case.
Source: Miami Herald, “Suspected drug dealer fatally shot by Tampa police,” May 28, 2014.