If local law enforcement participated in the federal raid, can I sue the locality based on the cooperation in civil court, and will that help with my federal case?

A:

Unfortunately, while there have been several attempts to sue localities in civil court based on the assistance offered by local law enforcement to the DEA to enforce federal law at the expense of state law, none have been successful, either by themselves, or in changing the course of the federal criminal case. The fight to get local law enforcement to stop offering any (or at least anything more than token) assistance is more of a political fight than a legal one. While local law enforcement is bound to uphold state law, there is also probably no successful solely legal grounds that a plaintiff could use to stop individual officers from either cooperating with or handing cases over to federal agents. A successful suit becomes even more difficult when an officer involved in a raid has been cross-deputized as a federal agent, as many county Sheriffs and members of multi-agency taskforces have been.

Additionally, even the California Attorney General has sent the message that local law enforcement should not be subverting state law to assist in medical marijuana raids. In response to the June 6, 2005 Gonzales v. Raich decision, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer issued bulletins on June 9 and June 22 encouraging local law enforcement not to invoke federal law. However, there is little that the Attorney General can do to force local police not to seek help from the federal government is they so choose.

Instead, patients should organize in every locality where local cooperation has occurred, and attempt to get non-binding resolutions passed by the governing body, instructing the Chief of Police or Sheriff to change his or her policy on cooperation. Politically speaking, if activists bring enough shame and embarrassment to local officials that skirt state law to entice the federal government to get involved, it may discourage other localities from acting similarly.

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