Citizens are protected from police intrusion onto private property outside of a few specific exceptions.
Police are only allowed to forcefully enter homes in situations where they have a valid search warrant that describes the areas to be searched and reasons for entering. There are also some other urgent situations where they may enter because someone witnessed a felony in progress and notifies the police. It is technically a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when they enter a home without reason (even by mistake) or search any area without founded suspicion of criminal activity.
The Largo Police mistakenly entered a multi-unit home that they thought was unoccupied and had recent incidents of vagrancy.
Improper entry into Largo home causes property damage and trauma
On a Sunday afternoon, the Largo Police had entered a home on 128th Lane North. One tenant in the multi-unit building heard a knock on his bedroom door when he was confronted by police with weapons drawn who told him he needed to leave. Another bedroom door was kicked in because the tenant was away at the time the police entered. The armed officers had ordered the tenants to get on the ground and then told them to leave immediately after accusing them of vagrancy. The department alleges that the officers on the scene had knocked and verbally asked for someone to answer at the front door and windows multiple times before forcing their way inside.
Apparently the officers never obtained any kind of search warrant at all, and had only entered this building under suspicion of vagrants trespassing in the area. The department later issued an apology, but stated the act of entering the common areas of the building with their guns drawn was standard police protocol. A police spokesperson also offered to have the property damage repaired. Aside from the damage to the building, some of the tenants are still having nightmares and other problems related to the stress caused by the incident.
Illegal searches and damages
There are a number of things that can go wrong when police enter the incorrect home or otherwise perform an illegal search. They are often prepared to use force due to the possibility of armed and dangerous criminals inside. However, this same level of preparation causes a number of different problems when used inside the wrong building. People have been severely injured or even died in a number of cases over the years where police entered the wrong home by mistake. Victims of improper searches usually have to deal with severe consequences, and the police need to be held to a certain level of accountability for these costly mistakes.
The best way to get help after an illegal entry into, or search of your property is to retain a lawyer. An experienced police brutality lawyer can file lawsuits on your behalf that allege improper law enforcement actions caused various kinds of damage. These damages can come in the form of medical bills, missed time from work, repairs to property, and pain and suffering related to psychological and emotional trauma. A special kind of lawsuit called a wrongful death action can also be filed by family members if someone dies as a result of police misconduct. To learn more about the specifics of how these lawsuits will work based on your injuries, it is best to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
Get help after the police entered your property illegally
If the police have damaged your property or injured you during an illegal search or other encounter, there is legal help available to make them pay for the harm they have caused. Trevena, Pontrello, and Associates is a boutique law firm in the Tampa Bay area that specializes in helping people with cases related to crime and law enforcement misconduct.