Last week, a federal judge in Kansas ruled against a couple whose home was raided in 2012 in an unsuccessful “SWAT-style” search for marijuana.
According to Reason.com, U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum said that police acted “legally and reasonably in planning and conducting the fruitless raid on the home of Robert and Adlynn Harte, former CIA agents whose children were 7 and 13 at the time.”
The family was held at gunpoint for over two hours while Johnson County sheriff’s deputies ransacked their house, finding nothing and refusing to say why they thought the Hartes were growing marijuana.
The couple reportedly spent a year and $25,000 in legal fees to find out what “probable cause” police had to support a search warrant.
“It turned out that the genesis of the search was a tip from a Missouri state trooper who saw Robert Harte leave a Kansas City hydroponics store on August 9, 2011, carrying a bag,” Reason.com reported. “Inside the bag supplied for a horticultural project involving tomato, squash, and melon plants that Harte thought would be edifying for the kids. Since people often buy indoor gardening supplies for such perfectly legal purposes, that purchase itself was not enough for probable cause. But eight months later, sheriff’s deputies rummaging through the Hartes’ trash came across wet “plant material” that the Hartes think must have been some of the loose tea that Adlynn favors. Although a field test supposedly identified the material as marijuana, a laboratory test (conducted after the raid) showed that result was erroneous.”
The Hartes filed a civil rights lawsuit, arguing that police should have known better than to have trusted a field test, which has a false-positive rate of 70 percent, but according to the judge, the field test in addition to visiting a hydroponics store added up to legal probable cause.
Although they lost their lawsuit, the couple’s case did prompt the Johnson County sheriff’s office to now require lab confirmation of suspected drug material, according to the Kansas City Star.