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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.

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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