November 20, 2013 | Vol.53 N.46

Lake Stevens woman files civil rights lawsuit against LSPD

A lawsuit was filed in federal court on September 4, 2013 by a Lake Stevens woman, Janet Moreno-Toro, 38, who alleges that her civil rights were violated when four Lake Stevens police officers ““barged through (the) front door to her residence and began to search her entire home.”

The woman alleges that in February 2013 the police officers forced her and her one-year-old child out of their home before securing the search warrant needed to search her residence. The suit states that the officers searched the home for almost seven hours.

Court records show that a Snohomish County Superior Court judge signed a warrant authorizing the police officers to search the home and seize a generator that was allegedly stolen.

The City of Lake Stevens believes the accusations to be baseless. The woman did file a complaint with the city before filing the lawsuit.

“The claims in the lawsuit are unfounded and the Police Department’s actions occurred in the course of a lawful investigation,” Lake Stevens City Administrator Jan Berg said. 

Attorneys for Moreno—Toro, Justin Munro and Vinnie Nappo believe their client has a strong case.

“Our client’s Fourth Amendment rights were blatantly trampled by the Lake Stevens Police Department,” Nappo said. “The police officers should have obtained a warrant before they entered our client’s home and made her wait outside for four hours with her one-year old child in her arms.  In Mrs. Moreno-Toro’s case, the police didn’t even bother to announce their presence or knock on the door before entering her home.   No citizen should have to stand for this kind of flagrant disregard for civil liberties.  Our justice system has long held, nowhere is the protective force of the Fourth Amendment more powerful than it is when the sanctity of the home is involved.  The Lake Stevens Police Department should know better.”

Munro agrees, stating, “In my opinion the police cannot enter a person’s home to seize it, search it and photograph it without a proper warrant to do so.”

The man who allegedly owned the generator claimed he had seen it for sale on Craigslist and approached police. He went to the house pretending to be interested in buying the generator and checked the serial number and found the number to be from his stolen generator, court documents state. They also state that Lake Stevens police officers told him to call 911 and report the stolen item.

Police then went to the home and asked the woman to leave while they were waiting for a search warrant, court documents state.

The police did say that they walked through the home before getting the warrant to see if anyone else was there.

Moreno-Toro claims that she asked the officers to leave and even called 911 and told them she was “being harassed by the cops.”

Moreno-Toro has no criminal history and says that she bought the generator at a pawnshop and that she did not know that it was stolen, court documents state. No charges were filed against Moreno-Toro and she was not arrested.

No criminal charges have been filed against the officers.

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