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Joseph, Criminal Defense Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 7280
Experience:  I have 15 years experience in criminal litigation including several years as a felony prosecutor
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My wife died unexpedely in our house on Saturday, December

Customer Question

My wife died unexpedely in our house on Saturday, December 29, 2012. She was only 40. She died from Cardiovacular disease that caused a stroke. She leaves behind me, and my three children ages 7,12,16, all who witness thier mother being carried out on a strecher.

I want to know if I can sue the town police who broke down my wife's and my bedroom door and did an unlawful search. I watched the paremedics take my wife out. My bedroom door was shut and locked as they cariied her out of my daughters bedroom and down the stairs and out to the ambulance. Before I left to go to the hospital I noticed a cop staying in my house. I asked him what he was doing here? I said to him, "they already took my wife to the hospital. You can leave now." He said, "Sorry I can't do that. Whenever someone dies at a young age in the house we have to assume possibly that thier my be foul play." I was upset and told him he was making no sense.

At this point, I left to go to the hospital where the doctors said my wife didn't make it. The doctor told me it was not my fault and it looked heart related. I said goodbye to my wife and went home to my three children.

As I entered my home, I noticed my bedroom door was open and the door was pushed in. The police broke into my bedroom. My older son who was here when I was at the hospital said the officer told him not to throw any trash away. My son noticed the officer who was standing at the steps. The officer went upstairs and my son got up to peek at the officer. At that point my son saw the my bedroom door closed. He then went into the kitchen, got some ice tea and heard a cracking sound. My son then walked by the steps again and noticed the door was open now and the hinged busted.

At this point they went into my bedroom and found an indoor garden. It was my wife's. I was then asked by police to sign a slip to give them permission to search my room. I said no. They said they would get a search warrant. I told them to get one, and they did showing up two hours later.

I had to open the door and let a detective in and four other officers. They ransacked my room tearing up the beds turning furniture over. They threw clothes everywhere. They brought in a dog to search my rooms. My brother in law was here with me and asked the officer at the bottom of the steps, "why can't Mr. Rice go up stairs while the officers check." They would not allow me in my bedroom. They would not allow me to go to the bathroom. They brought the dog downstairs and search everywhere, including my cellar.

In the end the police found a pot pipe with a little marajiana in it. I had some musle relaxient pills that are prescribe to me that I had left over. They found no plants in my wife's garden. I was not arrested. The police told me my house was dirty and thier was mouse droppings in my kids draws. They took my pipe and my left over prescibe medicines and reported it all to DSS.

DSS showed up that same night around 9pm. I had to go and wake up my 7 year old daughter. They talked with my three kids and asked me to show them around. I did, showing them all the bedrooms and the downstairs. They said they were not coming back. They said it was going to be the last time I see them. They saw nothing out of the ordinary and apoligized for intruding, but they were doing thier job as the police called them and reported me.

We had a horrific day as it was. I was so horrified that I lost my beautiful wife and my three children lost a wonderful mother. I was so upset with the police and feel like they violated my rights and had no reguards to me and my children who just lost their mother and wife, unexpedelly.

It took me and my three kids along with my sister and husband to clean up the house. The police tore up everything. It took us a couple of hours to clean up the mess. I asked the cop why he broke down my door in the first place. He said they had to, to get my wife down the stairs. He said they could not make the swing around, without busted down the bedroom door. It was clear that they did not need to break down the door, and I was here and saw the two paremedics take my wife down the stairs without touching my bedroom door. they had plenty of room to make the swing out. I saw them do it. They never toched or opened my door.

I'm sorry about the long message. Please help me if you can. I told everyone this story and they were just sick to thier stomachs on how the police handled this horrible day that me and my three children had to endure.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Joseph replied 4 years ago.

Let me begin by stating that I am terribly sorry for your loss and for what you have had to endure. Before proceeding, I'd like to clarify a couple things.


1. When the police very first arrived, it was clear that your wife had already passed away, correct?


2. Did anyone give them consent to search?


3. How much time passed before they obtained the search warrant?


Thank you.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

The paremedics arrived first, and then the police. I believe they were not able to recesitate her again. The police asked me to sign a consent to search my room. They said the indoor garden gave them probable cause to search my bedroom for drugs.


I told them I would not sign that and did not want them looking through my wife's and my things. My wife and I have adult toys and tapes that to me was too personal for police to be looking through.

They said they were going to get a search warrant. They told me, "If we have to get a search warrant we will look through your entire house."


The Police went down to the Dudley Mass District Court and Judge Christopher Hat signed the search warrant. It took the police only an hour or two to excuted the search warrant.


On the warrant states, I find thier is probable cause to believe that the property described below, 1. is intended for use or has been used as the means of committing a crime. 2. has been concealed to prevent a crime from being discovered. 3. is unlawfully possed or concealed for an unlawful purpose.4. is evidence of a crime or is evidence of criminal activity. Marijuana, a class D controlled substance, as defined by M.G.L. Ch. 94C. and it goes on about narcotic drugs.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I'm tired and have to try to get some sleep. I have a wake to go to tomorrow and a funeral on Thursday. I will check my email tomorrow sometime. Thanks so much Joseph for listening, and responding to my questions.

Expert:  Joseph replied 4 years ago.

But for the subsequently issued search warrant, I would suggest that you would have a compelling case against the police. As a general rule, they may enter someone's home under three circumstances, 1) with a warrant, 2) with consent or 3) with exigent circumstances. It sounds like you have an understanding as to the first two, exigent circumstances means there is some emergency, for example, if they heard someone calling from inside that they were in distress.


As none of these situations existed, it does not appear that they had the lawful ability to enter your home. Meaning, had the situation ended there, you had a solid lawsuit against law enforcement. However, the story does end there as they then went and obtained a search warrant. If you were to sue now, they would reply that they ultimately did obtain the warrant and, as such, the previous entry caused you no harm.


In my opinion, it's a close call here. As I've stated, if they never obtained a warrant, you would have a solid case. As they did later obtain a warrant, it certainly effects your argument of having been caused harm. My thought would be to set up an office conference with a local attorney that focuses on lawsuits against law enforcement. If you can have a lengthy face-to-face conversation with an attorney that is familiar with any local rules and customs, you can get a better understanding as to whether a lawsuit may be viable under these specific circumstances.


I understand you may have gone offline already. It has grown late and I'm signing off as well. Please feel free to reply, if necessary, tomorrow.

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