The target of this search had moved, so this was the search of the wrong house. Among a host of issues, service of an alleged illegible warrant is governed by qualified immunity. It was signed by a judge. The warrant sought marijuana plants in the garage. The fact they weren’t there doesn’t mean anything because they could have been moved. Some claims dismissed. Plaintiffs bought the house 2½ years before the search. Prokop v. Hileman, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37130 (N.D.Ill. Mar. 2, 2022):
This case is about a search of a home, gone wrong. The police executed a search warrant at the home of Joseph Gravelle, a suspected drug dealer. Except that it wasn’t his home. It was his former home. Plaintiffs Victoria Prokop and Wayne Coglianese lived at the residence in question. And they were surprised to see the police at their door.
When the police showed up, Prokop and Coglianese didn’t believe that they were the police. The officers were in plain clothes, and the copy of the warrant was illegible. It was right before Halloween, and Prokop and Coglianese thought that they were getting robbed.
When Prokop and Coglianese attempted to close the door, the police forced themselves in. A major fracas ensued, involving both fight and flight. The police fought with Coglianese, and eventually subdued him and placed him in handcuffs. Prokop, meanwhile, fled the home with her cell phone, and called 911. The officers on the scene spoke with the 911 operator, and said what was happening.
After a few minutes, Prokop and Coglianese realized that the police really were the police. And the officers, for their part, realized that Prokop and Coglianese weren’t Gravelle. The police realized that they were in the wrong home. The Chief of Police then showed up, and apologized. The officers then left.
Prokop and Coglianese responded by filing suit against seven Hometown police officers and the City of Hometown. They sued a Summit police officer and the City of Summit, too. They alleged a collection of claims under the Fourth Amendment and under state law. The Hometown Defendants and the Summit Defendants, in turn, moved to dismiss.
Having seen the warrant and search process up close, albeit 45 years ago, this is an example of the police not taking their Fourth Amendment duties seriously, something SCOTUS is complicit in. (Justia had the case link.)