Middle-of-the-night, warrantless search violated Fourth Amendment
ST. LOUIS – The ACLU of Missouri today filed a lawsuit against the St. Louis County Police Department after two of its officers illegally entered a home without a warrant and confronted the homeowners at gunpoint. The officers had no reasonable evidence that the man they were looking for was inside the home.
The illegal entry happened when officers were searching for a man who didn’t pay a $55 fare after a 3 a.m. taxi ride.
Neither the officers nor the taxi driver saw the man go inside the home of Jon Luer and Andrea Steinebach, but the officers still entered their home without evidence or a warrant on July 10, 2016. The man hadn’t even provided their address—or any address—to the taxi driver before he got out of the vehicle and disappeared between two houses.
“These officers acted with reckless and callous indifference to the very community they are sworn to serve and protect,” said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri. “Illegal actions by police officers contributes to distrust between the community and law enforcement.”
Luer and Steinebach, who are married, awoke to the noise of police officers pounding on a basement door. Luer then saw the officers outside their bedroom with weapons drawn. The officers ordered Luer to wake up his son. Officers interrogated his son and took him outside for the taxi driver to identify him before concluding the son was not the person they were looking for. The officers also never filed an incident report with the Department.
“The illegal actions of these officers violated the rights of this family,” said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri. “The armed invasion into their home by government officers was unconstitutional and the police department must take action to ensure that this does not ever happen again.”