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ACLU Sues Cranston Police for Not Returning Seized Weapons

A Cranston man whose guns were seized by police when taken to the hospital for a mental evaluation last September said they refuse to give the weapons back despite a psychotherapist's letter stating "there should be no concern."

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union today filed suit in U.S. District Court against the Cranston Police Department for refusing to return legally-owned firearms to a Cranston man.

The ACLU said in a release that it filed the suit on behalf of Robert Machado, who was transported to the hospital last September after police were called by one of his friends who told them that Marchado might be suicidal.

At the scene, Machado told police that his friend "misconstrued a conversation that they had had, but he agreed to be transported to Our Lady of Fatima Hospital for a mental health evaluation," the ACLU said. "The examination found no problems and he was promptly released from the hospital."

While Machado was at the hopsital, police seized "varous weaopns he lawufully possessed," the ACLU alleges, including guns and a collection of samurai swords.

Cranston Police have refused to return the weapons, the ACLU said, despite Machado getting a letter from a psychotherapist that he never demonstrated suicidal tendencies and "there should be no concern" returning his weapons.

Police told Macahdo he would need a court order to get them back. 

Machado contacted the ACLU after "further unsuccessful efforts to get his items returned," the ACLU said.

Cranston Police policy is that weapon owners not charged with a crime must "engage in formal litigation in order to recover their seized property."

The ACLU alleges that policy violates Macahdo's due process rights in addition to his Second Amendment rights. 

The suit asks for a federal judge to declare the police policy unconstitutional and order the immediate return of the guns.

“We hope this suit will ensure that Mr. Machado and his fellow citizens will no longer be exposed to violations of their constitutional rights," said ACLU volunteer lawyer Thomas W. Lyons.

Because other police departments may have similar policies, the ACLU expressed hope that the lawsuit would force other departments to reexamine them. 

Machado is a Vietnam War veteran being treated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

A copy of the lawsuit is attached to this story.

Melanie Scalera June 12, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Omg, f&*$ the ACLU already. They are here to DESTROY everything!!!!!!!
Lou p June 13, 2012 at 10:47 AM
Shows your ignorance. It the police who are taking your rights away. The ACLU protects all rights eve your ignorant opinion.
Joe Richer June 13, 2012 at 11:58 AM
The Cranston PDs position on this is clearly not consistent with civil notions of property rights. I understand the PDs intentions are good, but citizens not charged have property rights; do they not?
Bill Santagata June 13, 2012 at 12:30 PM
So you approve of the Cranston Police Department's policy that they can just take your property without charging you with a crime? How can anybody possibly agree with this?
Bill Santagata June 13, 2012 at 12:43 PM
You are correct. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution says that "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."
Monty June 13, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Machado has not gone through DUE PROCESS of the law, all he has gone through is a medical process. Once he gets the court order, which in this case would be Due Process, he will get his collection back.
Bill Santagata June 13, 2012 at 01:07 PM
The court order he seeks is not the "due process" component that the police required to take the weapons in the first place. In order for a police officer to seize property without a warrant, he must have probable cause that the weapons will be used to hurt somebody (including the owner). So while the officer may have had probable cause in taking the property based on the owner's friend's description of their conversation, once the psychologist issued the opinion that no one was in danger, the police no longer had probable cause to continue their possession of the weapons. Based on the ACLU's description of their policy, the Cranston Police Department believes it does not require probable cause, even in exigent circumstances, to seize private property. This is unconstitutional.
Melanie Scalera June 13, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Oh yeah, the police are TOTALLY taking my rights away. NOT. "The ACLU protects all rights eve your ignorant opinion." Wow, I think the ignorant one here is the failmonkey who needs to go back to school.
Bill Santagata June 13, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Melanie: I'm genuinely curious to know your opinion here. You believe that not only is it constitutional, but also preferable policy, for the police to seize property and continue holding it from you without any reason? You would, for example, support the Cranston Police if they marched into your house and took, for example, your TV and refused to give it back to you?
Lou p June 13, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Actually nice to see most if you have common sense unlike Melanie who thinks this is communist Russia.
Monty June 13, 2012 at 03:22 PM
A MEDICAL opinion only carries LEGAL weight in a court of law. If the shrink takes the stand, the property will be returned.
Monty June 13, 2012 at 03:25 PM
And since when does any entity base their policies on an "ACLU description"? Once a judge makes a decision, things may or may not change but the ACLU is far from a legal juggernaut that intimidates agencies and governments into altering policy.
Bill Santagata June 13, 2012 at 04:16 PM
This is not true. The complainant here followed all the instructions of the police department: he went to the hospital and was checked out the same day as fine and he got a letter from his psychologist who also said he was fine. Upon receipt of this letter, the police department ceased having probable cause to continue their possession of complainant's property, as they could no longer claim to have "a reasonable amount of suspicion, supported by circumstances sufficiently strong to justify a prudent and cautious person's belief that certain facts are probably true." The police department's policy supposedly (and yes we should wait to hear their side of the story too) is designed without regard to any legal standard, but rather places the burden on any person slighted by it to recover their property through litigation. Allowing this policy to stand would be to allow continuous unlawful seizures by the police that could only be rectified by time-consuming and expensive litigation. The police cannot "shoot first and ask questions later," figuratively speaking, when it comes to property seizures. They must be able to show probable cause for the seizure of the property (and its continued custody) to begin with. They cannot enforce a policy that flouts this constitutional requirement then require everyone harmed by it to sue them each time it happens.
Anne D June 14, 2012 at 09:42 AM
Due to HIPPA law, why was his name used?
Bill Santagata June 14, 2012 at 04:41 PM
He could have voluntarily chosen to put his real name on the lawsuit rather than "John Doe."

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