SW Legal Educational Publishing

Narc May Be Liable for Inviting TV Crew to Film Warranted Search
Description DEA agent who invited TV crews to accompany two warranted searches of methadone clinics held to have violated property owner’s right once she allowed crews to enter private property. Immunity for government agents does not apply when authority exceeded.
Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words Warrants, Unreasonable Search, Liability, Immunity
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts A DEA agent, with a properly obtained warrant for "special agents and diversion investigators," searched two Houston methadone clinics to seize records of drug distribution. On both searches, the agent invited television crews and DEA public relations officer to accompany her. When the property owner objected, the agent stated that the media could come on the property to film the search. Swate, who owns the clinics, sued the agent. The agent moved for dismissal of suit, claiming immunity from liability.
Decision Partial judgment in favor of plaintiff. Agent "exceeded the scope of her warrant–unreasonably searching Swate in violation of his federal rights." The fact that the agent was encouraged by superiors to involve the media in DEA busts does not relieve her of liability. "An illegal expansion of a search is like an illegal arrest, the citizen cannot stop it; he must look to redress after the dust has settled."
Citation Swate v. Taylor, F.Supp.--- (1998 WL 639314, S.D., Tx.)
12 F. Supp. 2d 591 (S. D. Tex., 1998)

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