A Win for Mother Who Stood Firm on 4th Amendment
By Joseph Snook
[Certain names have been omitted for the purpose of confidentiality.]
DUNSMUIR, CA – Around May, 2011, probation officers in Siskiyou County arrested and detained Sharon. Sharon was allowing her son who was on probation at the time to stay in an apartment located in the lower, separate level of her residence. According to sources, Sharon had previously met with probation officer Leigh Moore and was told that any weapons upstairs in her portion of the residence would need to be secured and she would have to “block off” access to the lower level, fully furnished living quarters from the upstairs portion of the residence. Although these demands by the probation department weren’t legal or valid because Sharon wasn’t on probation, and her son did not reside in the residence upstairs, she complied.
In July 2011, the probation department sought another search. After nothing was found to implicate there were any probation violations,
probation officers turned towards Sharon. One of the probation officers knew the upstairs was Sharon’s portion, in fact, probation officer Leigh Moore admitted that she “knew the upstairs was Sharon’s portion of the residence.” Sharon had installed a plywood hatch over the stairwell, showing and insuring the separation of the residences.
Probation Officers then told Sharon they were going to search her residence. She informed them that she had secured a plywood door and the upstairs was solely her part of the residence – that they did not have her consent to search. They only had permission to search the residence of her son who was on probation.
Siskiyou County probation treated Sharon like, “she was the criminal.”
The officers ordered her to move aside to permit them to ascend the stairs and search but she continued to refuse. They arrested her for what is known as the California “catch-all” – Penal Code 148, delaying or obstructing an officer in the performance of their duties. They continued to search her private residence and reportedly found nothing that violated Sharon’s son’s probation.
Lawyer Nathan Wente
Sharon refused to accept any plea bargains and went to trial about a year and a half after the incident. After a four day jury trial the jury was dead-locked 6-6. Sharon’s Attorney, Nathan Wente did an exceptional job defending her. The judge declared a mistrial and a few days later the District Attorney dismissed the case.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution reads: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The problem with Siskiyou County Probation Officer Leigh Moore was she reportedly violated Sharon’s Fourth Amendment Rights by unreasonably searching an already declared separate residence, which was not part of her son’s residence. They had no warrant to search her residence. Fortunately for Sharon, half of the jury found this to be evident. On the downside, only half of the jury was able to comprehend this fact. To this writer, it is evident that Sharon was absolutely innocent, but in today’s society people are seemingly taught to obey government, regardless of the circumstances. I commend Sharon for doing something most people would never do – stand up for their rights. If you don’t know your rights you will lose them!
Siskiyou County CA District Attorney J. Kirk Andrus should take a more proactive role in oversight of cases that get prosecuted in Siskiyou County. It would have saved the tax-payers time and money by doing the right thing and NOT prosecuting this case.
Anyone with information of abuse or false prosecutions in Siskiyou County, CA is urged to contact investigator Joseph Snook at 541-226-8235 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.