Justice for us

Scope of a Search and Seizure

Dearmon v. Burgess, No. 01-3096 (8th Cir., Nov. 8, 2004) (McMillian, for Loken, CJ., and Hansen, J.)

Has the Eighth Circuit expanded the scope of a drug-related search beyond reason?  You decide.

Police officers executed a warrant allowing them to search and seize "crack cocaine, marijuana, heroin, weapons, U.S. currency, drug transaction records, and any other instruments of the crime." Id. at *2 (emphasis added). What does "any other instruments" cover?

Everything, it seems:

[In this 1983 action], Appellants first argue that the district court erred in granting summary judgment because the officers seized items–jewelry, photographs, and personal papers–which were outside the scope of the search warrant. The district court did not err. Regardless of the fact that many of the items were 'personal property' of one or more of the appellants, they fail to show how any of the items seized were inconsistent with the parameters of the search warrant.  The search warrant authorized the officers to seize drugs, weapons, money, drug records, and other instruments of drug transactions. The officers reasonably could have believed that the items seized were of such an incriminating nature as to constitute . . . evidence of criminal activity. As appellees note, the personal papers could have been drug records; the photographs could have depicted criminal activity; the jewelry could have been the fruits of a drug transaction; and the door locks and knobs could have carried fingerprints.

Id. at *4.