(CN) – Chicago police officers should have called off a search when they realized that the warrant did not accurately describe the building where they made the arrest, the 7th Circuit ruled.
Maira Guzman claimed police officers wrongfully invaded her home and falsely arrested her, using excessive force. The trial court dismissed her suit, but she appealed the claims for false arrest and unlawful search.
Police were acting on a tip from a gang member who was a convicted felon. He directed police to a single-family dwelling at 1536 West Walton in Chicago, which was supposedly the home of a gun-toting gang member named Ruben Estrada.
The police database showed that Estrada, in his previous dealings with police, had given police the West Walton address and the locations of four other homes, two of which were on West Walton.
When police and FBI officers arrived, they realized that 1536 West Walton was not a single-family dwelling. It contained a real-estate office, an empty first-floor apartment and a second-floor apartment.
Guzman was answering the officers’ knock at the door when they forced the door open with a crowbar and entered with guns drawn. Guzman, who was seven months pregnant and does not speak English, was forced to lie on the floor for 10 minutes until the officers left. They found no Estrada and no weapons, save for a rusty, inoperable handgun in the back yard.
Judge Evans of the Chicago-based federal appeals court overturned the trial court’s dismissal of the case, citing the insufficiency of the warrant.
“The Fourth Amendment requires that a warrant be supported by probable cause,” Evans wrote, “and that it describe, with particularity, the place to be searched and the items or persons to be seized.
“(The officers) learned that the front of the building housed a real estate office,” the judge added. “They should have called off the search. Not doing so violated Guzman’s constitutional rights.”