During the week of March 24th, in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Houlon Berman’s client was acquitted of First Degree Burglary charges after the Court ruled that the police had illegally executed a search warrant at the client’s home.
The search warrant expressly provided that the police could look for and seize some stolen computers, a game console, an iPad and some other similar items. None of those items were found but a small pill bottle found inside of a jacket in a closet was seized. This item was not mentioned in the search warrant.
The Court accepted the argument that the detective should not have removed the pill bottle from the jacket to look at. His actions made the execution of the search warrant an illegal “general warrant”.
Police executing a warrant must comply with its specific terms and may not expand the scope of the warrant beyond its specific authorization unless they discover an item “in plain view” or “plainly feel” an item which is obviously contraband. The detective could not have known that the small pill bottle was potentially contraband without removing and examining it, thus making his actions illegal. Without the pill bottle, the Assistant State’s Attorney had no choice but to drop the charges.