This Area Is Certified Fourth Amendment-Free

Friday, February 18th, 2011

When police in Sarasota, Florida were having a hard time tracking down drug dealers in a run-down apartment complex, they came up with a solution that police departments across the country must now be kicking themselves for not having thought up themselves: Just search everyone.

[T]he agency tried something it had never done before. It sought permission from a judge to search anyone and everyone who parked or set foot in the apartment complex parking lot.

More than a dozen officers and the city’s SWAT team flooded the area. They had permission to detain and pat down anyone they saw in the area.

During the two-hour raid, a dozen people were searched and, even though officers justified the wide search by telling a judge no “innocent persons” congregated in the abandoned lot, only four people were charged with drug crimes. An 80-year-old man was among those detained, then released, during the operation.

A year later, the decision by Sarasota police to use an “all persons” warrant is being questioned by legal experts who say it gave officers unjustified power to search citizens with no evidence they were committing a crime.

In court this week, Judge Rochelle Curley upheld the legality of the search warrant. But an attorney for one of the men arrested outside the Mediterranean Apartments has vowed to push the case to the district court of appeal.

Those involved say a decision by the higher court could lead to a new precedent for police searches in Florida, essentially banning such broad searches or signaling approval for more widespread use.

The good news is that though the searches may have been an appalling violation of the Fourth Amendment, they were also wildly successful. For the last two years, Sarasota has been 100 percent drug-free.

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29 Responses to “This Area Is Certified Fourth Amendment-Free”

  1. #1 |  Nick T. | 

    Unreal. If only the 4th Amendment required that warrants had to be very specific about what was being sought, searched or seized. Oh wait.

  2. #2 |  Chris Berez | 

    In a just world, that police department would be sued into oblivion, the officers who sought the warrant fired, and the judge who issued it removed from the bench and disbarred.

    Unfortunately we don’t live in that world.

  3. #3 |  dsmallwood | 

    The good news is that though the searches may have been an appalling violation of the Fourth Amendment, they were also wildly successful. For the last two years, Sarasota has been 100 percent drug-free.

    well said

  4. #4 |  Nathan A | 

    I’m really liking the sarcasm lately, Radley. Now at least I get a bit of a chuckle with my outrage.

  5. #5 |  BluBell | 

    I can’t believe a judge actually signed off on the originally order or that another judge upheld such a clear violation of rights.

    Do judges even go to law school anymore? Unfortunately, quite a few of the robbed dictators are clearly ignorant to even the basics of constitutional law.

  6. #6 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    Sounds like the Rutgers students who were beaten up
    recently. Also sounds like the en masse website shutdown by ICE ICE baby.
    (I think they should play that song when they strike, just for effect.)

    “In court this week, Judge Rochelle Curley upheld the legality of the search warrant.”

    Good thing the Judges are still there working tirelessly to keep the police in order. Oh, what’s that, the searched were poor and disenfranchised
    and not lawyered up? Ah, then screw that arcane “Rights” stuff.

  7. #7 |  Marty | 

    living in the poor part of town exposes you to all kinds of predators. at least when it’s not the cops, you can fight back.

  8. #8 |  edmund dantes | 

    Don’t worry so long as your right to due process, a fair trial, your right to not be unjustly confined, and your right to your rights will not cause an international spectacle or somehow distract government officials from their hard duties of protecting us you can pursue civil rights violations as a U.S. citizen. Otherwise you’re shit out of luck. Just ask Jose Padilla.

  9. #9 |  edmund dantes | 

    Ooops… forgot your right to not be subject to cruel and unusual punishment (i.e. torture) too.

  10. #10 |  BamBam | 

    #5, judges know what they are doing, as they did not get through their degree, etc. by being dummies. It’s long overdue that people call a spade a spade, that people that do this stuff aren’t ignorant/dumb but instead are EVIL as they know what they are doing. Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric about “golly gee I am enlightened, and I am not a judge, therefore the judge must be ignorant, therefore I shall educate him to bring him to the same enlightenment as myself”. This thinking is what allows the evil to continue year after year, decade after decade, century after century.

    BTW you can replace the word judge with cops, prosecutors, or politicians of any stripe.

  11. #11 |  Charlie O | 

    The fact that a judge upheld this nonsense is proof positive that there is no due process or rule of law in this country. I used to say that anyone who didn’t believe that the US was a police state was either naive or stupid. Now it’s down to just stupid.

  12. #12 |  Tweets that mention This Area Is Certified Fourth Amendment-Free | The Agitator -- | 

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by FoxArtCultTech, teaist net. teaist net said: This Area Is Certified Fourth Amendment-Free […]

  13. #13 |  Bobby | 

    Judges are part of the Elite Establishment that runs things everywhere. They were thoroughly tested for compliance to the Elite social paradigm BEFORE they were appointed. You can ordain a Baptist minister as a Catholic priest but ain’t no miricle conversion gonna happen. He’ll still be a Baptist at heart and totally predictable in his judgments.

    Ask any trial lawyer. With Judge A, you win. With Judge B, you lose. Being CORRECT has nothing to do with it. It’s all personality. That’s why Judges and the legal establishment fight so hard to maintain the “appearance” of impartiality. Because the Judge has no clothes.

  14. #14 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    Ph 941.8614868
    Fax: 941.7425957

    Info on Judge “Curley”, for the truly outraged, curious or otherwise agitated.
    Careful, Florida probably has a new law that says you can’t think for yourself or express disgust for their insidious “Come on Vacation, Leave on Probation” system.

  15. #15 |  Loren | 

    I am not a lawyer, but think I have a better understanding of the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution than Judge Rochelle Curley.

  16. #16 |  Brandon | 

    #14: nice. I like the slogan.

  17. #17 |  overgoverned | 

    General warrants were one of the principal grievances that led to the American Revolution, is the amazing thing. Men like Sam Adams were disgusted that government officers could have a warrant to conduct searches that didn’t name the particular people being searched and the particular thing being sought.

  18. #18 |  demize! | 

    I think #13 has said all that need be said!

  19. #19 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Why the hell does all this egregious shit keep happening in Florida? Does every government in the state need to be put under a Federal consent decree? I really get the feeling that Florida is starting to outdo Alabama, Louisiana and Texas for official skulduggery, and that’s not easy. There’s the appearance of a pervasive, nearly statewide moral rot in government, more brazen than elsewhere.

  20. #20 |  kant | 

    I know this is going to come off as paranoid/sarcastic but how long do you think before a judge signs a what i’ll call a mass area warrant? that is, a warrant that covers an entire block or more. I have a feeling it’ll be inspired by a drug sweep.

  21. #21 |  random guy | 

    kant, isn’t that essentially true of DUI checkpoints? If police have the authority to cordon off main thoroughfares to a large area and stop and inspect each person entering or leaving, isn’t that the same thing?

    I’ve read in other places, and maybe here, that the vast majority of arrests and fines at such checkpoints have nothing to do with DUI’s. And yet the supreme court says they’re okay, but indiscriminate searches such as ID checks are illegal. What I find hilarious as the local sheriffs’ office loves to set up little ID checkpoints apparently oblivious to the fact that they’ve been unconstitutional for three decades. They only seem to do it around the predominately Hispanic section of town, so I don’t think they’re going to get caught anytime soon.

    But its all the same thing, the law has essentially been interpreted to the point that a cops judgment outweighs all your rights. They don’t have the right to search your vehicle? Well now they can just bring out a dog to sniff your tires which magically justifies cutting open your seats and detaining you for three hours. Right now we have the appearance of procedure to what is actually arbitrary and limitless police power. In a few years the full blown police state will no longer need such pretenses.

  22. #22 |  demize! | 

    Well from personal experience I have been stopped and searched for ‘what are you doing in this neighborhood’ PC. It is really up to the individual officer if he wants to hassle you, so these type of racial stops are common, of course there is no warrant issued and it’s a different type of situation than what’s being discussed, but it seems to be a de facto policy. At least in New York.

  23. #23 |  demize! | 

    #21 sorry for the double post, what you said goes to the seizure of cash due to alerts for Cocaine positivity on currency, there was a study that showed that there are traces of narcotic on a majority of the paper currency floating around the US. so just another excuse to arrest and seize on shaky or non existant grounds.

  24. #24 |  kant | 

    well essentially yes but I was thinking more along the lines of a warrant for police to search every person/car/house/building on block x.

  25. #25 |  Tybo | 


    If I remember correctly, part of the ‘justification’ (I use quotes because it was really just uncomfortable squirming and not very clear on the part of rulings in question) for DUI checkpoints was that it was something that required a license to do anyway, and that mass searches of the indiscriminate sort were otherwise unconstitutional.

    In other words, some of those little bits buried in those rulings would actually be the sort of thing to point out here. (Not that I agree with the final conclusion of said precedence regarding DUI checkpoints, however.)

  26. #26 |  Len | 


    Kant, this has already happened, as Balko noted in these pages. Connecticut.

  27. #27 |  c andrew | 

    Does anyone else think that a “Rochelle Curley” would make a great name for a sex act a’la the Santorum?

  28. #28 |  c andrew | 

    Specifically where one is being boofed by your “superior” with a corkscrew?

  29. #29 |  Duncan20903 | 

    Bad Radley. Bad boy. Don’t you know that Know Nothing prohibitionists are idiots, and will believe you when you say that Sarasota is “100% drug free”?