Mistakes sometimes happen when police conduct home searches, the Supreme Court said yesterday, throwing out a lawsuit brought by a white California couple who were rousted from bed and held naked at gunpoint by deputies looking for several black suspects, the Los Angeles Times. The search of a man and his girlfriend in their bedroom may have been an error, and it was embarrassing to them, but it did not violate their rights under the 4th Amendment, the court ruled.
Police obtain search warrants based on probable evidence, not “absolute certainty,” the court said. In 2001, Los Angeles County sheriffs were looking for four black suspects in an identity-theft scheme. They did not know that the suspects had moved three months earlier. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had said a jury might conclude the search was “unnecessarily painful, degrading or prolonged.” Los Angeles County lawyers argued that deputies should not be subject to suits for carrying out a lawful search of a home.