We’d like to think we live in a country where, when people break into your home wearing ski-masks and carrying guns take all your shit for no reason, those people can at least possibly go to jail and pay for what they did. But when those people are drug task force agents, that’s not the case.
A Michigan woman was cleared on all criminal charges more than a year and a half after local law enforcement raided her home, confiscated a ton of her property, and saddled her with several felony drug charges, according to the Washington Post.
Until recently, Annette Shattuck, who describes herself as a “soccer mom” and her husband, Dale, were looking at charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession with intent to manufacture marijuana, and maintaining a drug house.
All these severe charges despite the fact that the Shattucks were operating a licensed medical marijuana dispensary. The Shattucks had crossed every T and dotted every I in setting up their MMJ collective the DNA Wellness Center. They obtained permits, licenses, their landlords agreement, and had even met personally with the local planning commission to lock down all the particulars of their business to make sure that they were in compliance.
They even went one extra, insanely cautious step and called the local sheriff’s Drug Task Force to have them check out the dispensary and make sure everything was legally cool. “We really went above and beyond,” Annette Shattuck told the Post. “We asked for help. We went out of our way to make sure that everything was legit.”
And indeed, a local Task Force did inspect the property. Only not in a friendly “let’s just make sure everything’s in order here” kind of way. More like in a “let’s terrify your children and threaten to murder your pets and destroy your home” kind of way.
“During the dynamic entry, armed DTF officers wearing ski masks separated the children from their grandmother at gunpoint, shouting at her to get the dog under control or they would shoot it,” alleges a court briefing filed from the Shattucks’ attorney. “The deputies kept the children lined up on the couch at gunpoint, refusing even to remove their masks to help calm the kids.”
Authorities have disputed this account of the raid, so it’s unclear whether it was trauma-inducing or only unnecessarily brutal. Either way, the Michigan authorities proceeded to fuck up the family’s life in yet another way. They took, in Annette’s word, “every belonging” of theirs during the raid.
The couple, 19 months after the raid, still hasn’t gotten all their property back. What has been returned was in many cases damaged or destroyed. Electronics were given back without their power cords or remote controls. A closed safe was returned without the key required to open it. Important records such as marriage and birth certificates are still apparently in the sheriff’s possession, but no one can be sure at this point because the cops didn’t even keep an itemized account of the property they seized from the Shattucks.
And that is far from the only time Michigan cops have pulled these kind of shenanigans on the citizens they’re serving and protecting. According to the Washington Post, the Institute for Justice wrote in a report last year that Michigan earns a D- for its forfeiture laws, given its “poor protections for innocent property owners.”
The couple has had their charges dropped on the grounds of entrapment by estoppel (meaning that one government agency lead them to believe their actions were legal so another can’t arrest them for the same actions). And that is a great precedent for folks who find themselves in a similar situation in the future. But the suckiness of the criminal justice system lives on.
Photo via Flickr user Christopher Schmidt