Oakland County N.E.T. Practices In Obtaining Drugs and Money Can Border On ‘Improper.’
What Is The Issue?
The Oakland County Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET) is responsible for investigating big drug cases anywhere around the county. It works with other law enforcement agencies throughout southeastern Michigan in assisting in the prosecution of narcotics use, sales, distribution, and trafficking.
This group, which does important work in helping to protect the public from drug crimes has at times used methods to obtain property and evidence that would be considered overreaching and improper. It begs the question: at what point are procedures not followed – bordering on illegal – in order to seize narcotics and money as well as other items used in drug manufacturing, distribution, and trafficking.
In Oakland County, there have been instances of conducting raids without warrants, suspects not being Mirandized prior to questioning, use of excessive force on the accused, improper vehicle searches and cover ups within the unit to protect its members.
Police work is difficult and dangerous, it is also necessary. Officers rely on very specialized training and education in order to conduct official business. It seems that at times, the NET walks outside the lines of following proper procedures to get what it is they are after as they have to ‘impersonate’ those involved in what is a controlled buy. Confiscation of property is very common in drug cases. One defense to consider in drug use cases is that police, NET members, or other agents overstepped their authority in finding drugs. If that is the case, then you should have a good criminal defense attorney to work with you in having drugs and drug-related items excluded from being introduced in court. Agents and officers should be held to the highest standards of conduct when performing their duties. Playing outside the lines of fairness and appropriate boundaries in order to achieve results is not something that NET members should work toward. If proper conduct is followed, then property and information gathered during NET operations will be not be subject to exclusion when presented as evidence in court, and a successful prosecution can result.
United States Attorney General Eric Holder rules that the Feds and the Department of Justice are now OUT of the Equitable Sharing Program – restricts incentives for the NET to seize personal assets under forfeiture laws.
In mid-January of 2015, Eric Holder, the US Attorney General delivered a blow to local and state law enforcement agencies around the country such as the Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET). He announced that the Department of Justice is withdrawing its ‘incentives’ program of splitting forfeiture proceeds with local and state policing agencies. Typically, civil forfeiture actions have allowed for the NET to take a person’s personal property without being criminally charged so long as it can show some connection to drug use, sales, distribution, trafficking, or some other drug / controlled substance activity. Once a ‘connection’ is made – the NET can take what it deems to be relevant property, including drug-related items, cash and vehicles. One concern with this approach to asset seizure is that in civil cases, the standard of proof for law enforcement is much lower than in criminal cases. In other words, the NET can ‘take’ a person’s things without proof. The burden then shifts to an owner to reclaim both innocence and property instead of the government having to prove fault or misconduct. It is very difficult to make such a showing and so it is typical that people are often left without recourse in a forfeiture action. Although there still remain some exceptions, Holder’s order now puts the onus on the NET to rely on local and state laws for civil forfeitures rather than relying on the Equitable Sharing Program – taking away the incentive to violate peoples’ Constitutional Rights while narcotics investigating agencies enrich themselves in what are often seen as ‘illegal’ takings.
It is a concern however, that illegally obtained evidence in narcotics raids are being used in prosecuting drug trafficking, possession, and delivery charges amongst others. The NET should not be breaking the law in order to enforce it. If proper police work is done, this group should be able to accomplish its objectives without resorting to what may appear to be ‘tactless’ tactics – the NET should be focused on catching criminals rather than to better itself by sweetening the ‘deal.’