Update: Felony Drug Charges From Electric Forest Festival Dismissed
Yesterday, the Electric Forest Festival Attorneys at Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law learned that serious felony drug charges in two separate cases, where we had just filed legal briefs asking the Court to suppress evidence the week before, were being dismissed by the Prosecutor. While it is unusual for a prosecutor to dismiss such charges on their own, the two unrelated cases had one thing in common: the concert’s security personnel conducted indefensible illegal searches and seizures (arrests) in both cases.
While searches and seizures conducted by private citizens, such as a private security company, generally speaking, do not violate the protections of the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, such searches can cross the line and violate the Constitution when a private citizen or, in this case, security personnel act “under [the] color of law.” In other words, when somebody acts like they are authorized by the law to exercise the same powers as the police and one might reasonably (objectively) believe they had been legally authorized to exercise those police powers, the law assumes they are acting “under color of law” and treats their actions just like they had been done by the government or police.
In the two cases mentioned above, security was working very closely with the police, i.e., working together to arrest and search concertgoers suspected of being involved in drug transactions and, in the other case, conducting undercover operations or “stings,” arresting concertgoers, conducting interrogations and then turning over the concertgoers they arrested to the police. In short, security apparently thought they they could do what the police could not–conduct the unconstitutional searches and seizures without regard to the protections afforded citizens under the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution. Fortunately, our clients wanted to challenge security’s conduct in these cases and Oceana County has a Prosecutor who apparently takes his ethical obligations and special role as a prosecutor to “do justice” just as seriously as he does trying to “win” cases. When confronted with the unjustified searches and seizures and the fact that security was working closely with the police in these two cases, the Prosecutor apparently concluded that the searches and seizures were unjustified and agreed to dismiss the cases. He should be applauded for doing so, not because he agreed with our position, but because he had the courage to uphold and defend the Constitution even though it meant dismissing the two felony drug cases in question. While we are often pitted against one another in the Court and our legal stances are frequently at odds, I have the utmost respect for a prosecutor who fairly applies the law to the facts and arrives at just result. While some prosecutors might regard this as a “loss” for them personally, it is really a “win” for our Constitution, the rule of law, and our criminal justice system.
Of course, our clients were ecstatic the charges are being dismissed as well (click here for a link to a review-“hard work and diligence got my case dropped”). Attorneys Gary Springstead and Kathy Springstead put their past investigative experience as FBI Agents to work in these cases to put together a complete picture of the facts, while also writing thorough and compelling legal briefs. We are happy for our clients and glad we could deliver such a terrific outcome, but also heartened by the decision of the prosecutor not to try and defend an unlawful search and seizure.
At Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law, we know that being accused of a felony and serious drug charge can take a toll on anyone. If you or somebody you know is accused of drug charges arising out of the Electric Forest Festival, call the experienced, award-winning Electric Forest drug crime lawyers at Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law for a free consultation–(616) 458-5500 or (231) 924-8700.