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Indianapolis police are using warrant sweeps to fight drug crimes

The chief of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police recently announced his resignation, ostensibly to seek higher paying opportunities. He legacy includes many reform efforts, including warrant sweeps.

What is a warrant sweep? The press used this term a few months ago when Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officers arrested nearly 200 individuals suspected of various drug crimes, including drug trafficking and related gun violence. The sweep also resulted in the confiscation of collateral evidence, including guns, bundles of drugs and cash. The coordinated effort targeted neighborhoods most affected by drugs and gun violence.

The term may also invite comparisons to sobriety checkpoints. However, there are critical differences. A sobriety checkpoint is not necessarily considered a search and seizure, and hence generally does not require a warrant in advance. In contrast, the warrant sweep described above required advance court approval.

Under the Fourth Amendment, every warrant must be supported by probable cause and describe the reasonable search of a precisely described area, such as an individual’s premises or car. To demonstrate probable cause, an officer typically presents a signed affidavit to the court, describing specific facts to support the officer's suspicion that a crime has been committed, or is about to be committed, and that the search might reveal evidence of that criminal activity.

In limited circumstances, authorities may be also justified in broadening their search efforts beyond the specified area. Examples of that justification might include acting to ensure the safety of others, to prevent evidence from being destroyed, or to follow-up about potential evidence that was in plain view.

A warrant and subsequent search that failed to meet any of these requirements might result in a court refusing to allow prosecutors to present the tainted, or unlawfully obtained, evidence at trial. Our law firm’s experienced criminal defense attorneys know how to review a defendant’s arrest record to search for these and other procedural defenses.

Source: Indy Star, “IMPD Chief Troy Riggs on his resignation: 'I leave with no animosity',” Justin L. Mack and Madeline Buckley, Dec. 21, 2016

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