Delayed Notice Warrants Net Over $3 Million for Akron Authorities

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Federal and state authorities in the Akron, Ohio area recently divided up $3.2 million in cash and property, which had been seized in 2006 as the result of a little-known form of search warrant known as “delayed-notice” or “sneak and peek.”

A delayed notice search warrant allows law enforcement officers to enter a home or other building where suspected criminal activity is taking place, without first obtaining approval from a judge or grand jury. They were first sanctioned 20 years ago, but have gained legitimacy in the wake of the Patriot Act. Delayed notice warrants are most often used to enter a home, find and copy documents and then replace them, but they are also occasionally used to seek out contraband.

In this instance, the law enforcement officers staged a break-in at the home of a suspected drug trafficker, Chevaliee “Chevy” Robinson, in order to convince him that he had been the victim of a break-in, rather than the target of an investigation. Agents seized a half-ton of marijuana and $2.8 million in cash. Robinson was indicted in November 2007, and is currently serving 15 years in federal prison. Others who were implicated in the drug smuggling ring are also serving sentences of varying lengths.

Robinson had been under surveillance by the Summit County Sheriff’s office, and that officials learned through wire taps and GPS trackers on his vehicles that he had trucked 650 pounds of marijuana in early 2007, leading to his arrest.

Recently, U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach and Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray announced that the money seized from Robinson’s home will be distributed to 10 law enforcement agencies throughout the region, including the Summit County Sheriff’s Office’s drug unit.

The use of delayed notice search warrants is not without controversy, however. Critics of the tactic say that it violates individuals’ privacy rights and creates dangerous situations for both law enforcement and private citizens. Its champions, however, cite its usefulness in stopping drug trafficking. Federal courts have upheld the use of “sneak and peek” warrants, and legal experts say this their use will most likely increase in the coming decades.

 

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