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FBI Tip Leads to Raid of OUR Home!!! Is There Recourse???

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MrMiran:
This Thursday, 5/17/12, our Ohio home was raided by the local police department.  :shock: It seems they suspected us of growing pot in our basement because our electric bills were higher than our neighbors... Oh, and they had a "confidential informant" tip them off via the FBI two weeks earlier.

Well, two weeks earlier we had signed up for PIPP (Percentage of Income Payment Plan) with the electric company.  It is a federal program... and we just find it an odd coincidence, especially since we had to take them a copy of our electric bill to apply for the program.  We suspect the Federal government is using PIPP to gain information about people in order to justify raiding their homes and then hiding behind the "confidential informant" rules... when in truth the "informant" is a government agency.

We would like to find out who this "confidential informant" is and possibly sue them for slander.  It's not about the money, it is about the right to face our accuser, who obviously is a lying SOB... but I digress.  Anybody have any clue as to what our options are here?  If so... email me at mrmiran@hotmail.com with your suggestions or just post them here.  Thanks!  =0)

Diogenes The Cynic:
Well, if they broke into your home, and there wasn't any pot, you cold take them to trial for it. They would have to disclose their sources in discovery.

MrMiran:
No pot was found... No charges were filed against us... but it was a little traumatic to have fifteen armed soldiers, er, I mean "cops," come into the house, upset my wife, and frighten my mother-in-law who lives with us.  They rang the bell twice, and we didn't answer... since we just don't answer the door for people we aren't expecting.  Then the third time they started POUNDING and I headed up from the basement to see what was going on.  They were pounding even harder as I approached the front door when I heard someone say, "Police.  We have a warrant." 

At that point I decided I should open the door, and upon doing so I was met by a hoard of cops and so many police vehicles that they wouldn't fit on the parking pad of our triplex and a SWAT vehicle was among the rabble parked out on the street in front!  The officer at the front door said he had a warrant... the cop behind him said that if I had not answered that last time they would have broken the door down. 

I asked, "Can I see the warrant, please?"  The second cop smugly announced, "Or you could just comply and let us in."  I nervously repeated, "I'm really not trying to be an ass here... Can I see the warrant, please?"  The first cop handed the warrant over and I read it over, frankly expecting to see our neighbor's address on the top.  Nope... It was OUR address!  One interesting note:  There were no names on the warrant... only the address.  The police never even asked our names or requested IDs. Anyway, I opened up the door and let them in.

They said they had received a tip that there may be a marijuana grow operation here and asked to see our basement.  I said sure, and asked if I could warn my mother-in-law, who was in the bathroom upstairs, what was going on so she wouldn't freak out.  They said I could and my wife also asked if I could also go down to the basement first so that the birds in our six-foot plexiglass aviary wouldn't spook and injure themselves flying around the cage.  We were told I could, but a cop ran down the stairs ahead of me anyway... Thankfully the birds didn't panic.  They found nothing.  There was nothing to find.  Nobody in our home has a criminal record of any kind.  My personal views are well-known on Facebook, among my friends and family.  I think you should be able to grow a freakin' forest of marijuana in your basement if you want to... I just don't use the stuff personally.

The cops began to retreat and explained that two weeks prior (The same time we renewed our application on the PIPP electric program) they had received this anonymous tip from the FBI and based on that they then looked up the electric bills of everyone in our triplex.  Apparently our bill was four times higher than the other tenants! 

We do run our AC more, largely because we are home more and have several birds and a cat... okay, and we're fat.  I admit it!  It seems that on average we were using 1.4kwh a month... roughly $220... where the other tenants used only $60 a month.  Still, I think raiding our home is uncalled for!  My mother-in-law also had an oxygen machine here for awhile, but she quit using that because of the hoses, noise, and heat it put off.  We run fluorescent lights through the house to try and cut down our power usage, though that is partially offset by two freezers in the garage... one five-cubic-foot and a larger seven-cubic-foot model, and the old 1970's era refrigerator that came with the place.  All in all, the police said they saw nothing abnormal about our use of electricity in the home and suggested we have someone look at the wiring of the place.  We told the landlord later and they are having a certified electrician come out tomorrow to see if, perhaps, somebody tapped into our power line or there some other cause that would explain our much higher power usage.

As the cops tried to smooth our ruffled feathers, they still refused to tell us who the informant was.  I asked the first officer to please look at it from our perspective.  I said that if they had come in with a warrant and found the Medellin Cartel in our basement that we would then be going to trial and the name of the informant would be divulged in open court.  BUT in our case, nothing was found and their informant was obviously a liar, but they refuse to tell us who it is.  So the "confidentiality" protection only applies to liars, not witnesses who share the truth about criminal activity.  The police will protect the identity of liars who falsely accuse us, but  they will throw actual witnesses to even violent crimes under the bus in a heartbeat.  Why?  He had no answer. 

On the positive side:  The cops here in Ohio are nicer... and I think smarter... than cops in my native California.  They did not draw their weapons.  They did not throw us on the floor.  They did not put a knee into our backs and scream, "Stop resisting!" as they cuffed us.  They didn't trash our home either.  In the end, nobody was cuffed, or for that matter touched, as they executed the warrant.  They were very professional about it, and for that I am grateful.  I still think what they did was wrong, however.

This brings us to the ultimate question.  What can we sue them for?  We were not arrested.  We were not even charged... or for that matter named on the warrant.  Yes, we were in fear for our lives and our animals and we felt very much violated as our home was unjustly invaded.   We just don't know what do do at this point.  We want to know who this "informant" is and want to expose any other "tips" they may have received from this liar, if that is possible. 

Personally, I suspect the "informant" is none other than the PIPP (Percentage of Income Payment Plan) program itself.  I am going to school while collecting unemployment and PIPP helps budget our electric bill throughout the year.  What a clever way to get information on citizens power usage in order to obtain warrants and raid their homes, all while keeping the program secret.  OMG, this is going to make me paranoid!

freeAgent:
I have no idea how you could find out who the informant was.  I think it's just as likely that it really is some deadbeat druggie the cops caught and flipped.  I think it's pretty well documented that the cops will let their informants know that they want them to inform on person X and the informants frequently comply even when they have no idea who person X is, etc.

That still doesn't explain how the investigation initiated, but I don't think high electricity usage is reason enough for a warrant.  Since the PIPP sounds like a welfare-like program, it could very well be that some government bureaucrat figured that low-income people with high electrical usage must therefore be drug dealers.

Cognitive Dissident:
First, let me share my sympathy--which I would have for you regardless of whether you were growing pot.  I understand that much of your indignation comes from the fact that you were not doing what they thought you were doing (and I don't mean to project that you think it's wrong.)

Having said that, Barry Cooper has indicated that there are a number of points on which homes are profiled for having grow operations, and one of them is extraordinary energy usage.  It seems unclear that this alone would be enough for a warrant.  It seems, under the Freedom of Information Act, you should (ideally, if not in reality) be able to obtain the basis for the warrant, which may lead you to understand why you were fingered.  It seems I've heard that sometimes people are randomly fingered by someone desperate to get "off the hook" when in trouble with the law.  As we have recently seen demonstrated, such individuals are often desperate to reduce the pressure placed on them.

Once again, I'm truly sorry you've felt the heavy hand of the state, regardless of whether you were breaking any victimless crime laws.

I failed to indicate that there's probably no way to be made whole after this event.  To understand this is to understand that the state is not what its propaganda proclaims it to be.  It is not the purveyor of justice and the protector of rights.  It is the biggest, most powerful gang on your block.  It should be "respected" as such, in the way that best maintains your dignity and best maximizes your liberties.  If our expectations of the state are lowered, we can concentrate on what truly enriches our lives, which is typically furthest from any association with or conflict with the state.

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