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Baltimore crime victims say police illegally seized their phones

Baltimore crime victims say police illegally seized their phones

On an unusually warm spring evening in the early days of Covid-19, Amber Spencer turned out to celebrate her boyfriend’s birthday at a front stoop cookout in East Baltimore.

Suddenly, bullets flew, hitting her in the chest. When she turned to run.

a bullet struck the back of her head and lodged itself in her skull. Then Spencer lost consciousness.

“When I came to, I had been shot in the head. I asked, ‘Where’s my phone?’ and my mom said, ‘The police took it,’” she said.

Now, Spencer is one of four plaintiffs suing the Baltimore Police Department over what they say are illegal seizures of their personal property Baltimore.

A woman who was shot in March 2019 Baltimore:

The fourth plaintiff, Audrey Carter, is suing on behalf of her son, who was shot and killed in June 2018.

Cottman also specifically alleged that her phone was searched without her consent.

To date, none of the plaintiffs or their loved ones have been able to get their property back even though none of the four is accused of a crime.

Gray pleaded guilty to a narcotics charge in August, an unrelated incident.

Spencer and Carter are the first among this group to speak publicly about their case.

The federal lawsuit, a proposed class action:

argued there may be thousands of other victims of violent crime who have had their property “unlawfully seized, searched, and destroyed” by the Baltimore Police Department.

Otherwise, you’ll never see them,” said Tianna Mays, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

NBC News reached out to the Baltimore Police Department, the Baltimore solicitor’s office and the Baltimore City.

Lodge No. 3 Fraternal Order of Police, which all declined comment.

Calvin Harris, director of communications for the Baltimore city mayor’s office.

said in an emailed statement that he would not comment on “anything contained in active litigation.

But attorneys for the Baltimore solicitor’s office wrote in a court filing submitted in September that it’s legal

for police to “take possession of the clothing of the victim and all available evidence.”

That’s not how the plaintiffs’ attorney sees it.

In fact, in a motion Mays filed Nov. 5.

she argued that seizing items like phones lack “evidentiary value.

She noted that “these warrantless searches and wholesale seizures are unconstitutional and are the reason for this lawsuit.”

Experts say that if the lawsuit’s claims are borne out.

it would bring more scrutiny to the Baltimore Police Department.

In 2016, federal investigators concluded the Baltimore Police Department makes “unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests” among other findings.

That Department of Justice report resulted in a formal agreement between Baltimore police and the federal government to reform the city’s practices Baltimore.

Joe Margulies, a law professor at Cornell University, said presuming the lawsuit’s claims are accurate.

The practice of seizing victims’ phones is highly problematic Baltimore:

“If the allegations are true, the [Baltimore Police Department] is not just seizing but searching phones,” he emailed.

“If they seized a defendant’s phone, they’d have to get a warrant before they could search it.

David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, pointed out that while police procedure allows

“And again, even if they can seize it, they can’t search what is inside the device without a warrant.

Firmly established the necessity of a warrant to search a cellphone .

After waking up in the hospital, Spencer, 27, who works as a medical assistant, quickly realized the police took her clothes.

about $400 in cash and the key to her car, according to the lawsuit.

“I just lost a lot of money that I can never get back. I would like to have my stuff paid for.”

She said she continues to live with the consequences of this random shooting.

Sentimental reasons:

While Spencer has been waiting for her clothing for over 18 months, Audrey Carter has been waiting nearly twice as long.

“I said ‘OK, fine, if that’s what you need to do,’” she said. “‘I don’t want it back other than for any other reason than it was his.’”

Finally, by December 2019, she was able to arrange a meeting with a Baltimore police officer to get back some of the items.

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