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Search warrant for music festival ruled unconstitutional

A search warrant executed by police on attendants of a Fayette County music festival in 2009 was too broad and violated the Fourth Amendment, a federal judge ruled on Aug. 31. Under the principle of the exclusionary rule, the decision will likely exclude evidence of drugs police allegedly found on the concert goers.

That is because evidence discovered or seized under the authority of an illegitimate search warrant is considered to be "fruit of the poisonous tree," or the result of an illegal search and therefore not admissible in court, with certain exceptions. The idea behind the exclusionary rule is to give police and prosecutors the incentive to follow the law when they wish to search someone's person or property.

In this case, authorities obtained a search warrant to raid Funk Fest, a touring music festival that held a show in the Pittsburgh area in 2009. The warrant failed to specify who at the concert officers suspected of committing a crime. Instead, it simply listed "all persons present" at the venue. Based on this warrant, police searched and arrested 23 people on drug charges.

In her order regarding the search warrant, the federal judge presiding over the case said that authorities failed to provide "reasonable grounds to believe that all persons on the premises" were committing crimes. Therefore, the warrant was not sufficient specific as required by the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

Both the Constitution's warrant requirements and the exclusionary rule are important parts of the criminal justice system. They are meant as safeguards to help level the playing field between the power and resources of the government versus an individual accused of a crime.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Warrant issued in Funk Fest arrests ruled unconstitutional," Liz Navratil, Aug. 31, 2012

Our law firm represents those accused of drug crimes such as possession and distribution. For more information, please visit our Pittsburgh drug charges page.

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