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Monday, December 13, 2010

The SWAT Team Would Like to See Your Alcohol Permit

From Reason Magazine:
In August a team of heavily armed Orange County, Florida, sheriff’s deputies raided several black- and Hispanic-owned barbershops in the Orlando area. There were more raids in September and October. According to the Orlando Sentinel, barbers and customers were held at gunpoint, some in handcuffs, while police turned the shops upside down. A total of nine shops were raided, and 37 people were arrested.

By all appearances, these raids were drug sweeps. Shop owners told the Sentinel police asked where they were hiding illegal drugs and weapons. But in the end, 34 of the 37 arrests were for 'barbering without a licence,' a misdemeanor for which only three people have ever served jail time in Florida. Two arrests were for misdemeanor marijuana possession. Just one person was arrested on felony drug and weapon charges.

The most disturbing aspect of the raids, however, was that police didn't bother to obtain search warrants. They didn't have to. The raids were conducted in conjunction with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Despite the guns and handcuffs, under Florida law these were licensure inspections, not criminal searches. So no warrant was necessary. Such 'administrative searches' are a disturbingly common end run around the Fourth Amendment.

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