Supreme Court allows evidence from Boardman heroin raid - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Supreme Court allows evidence from Boardman heroin raid

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that prosecutors are entitled to present heroin, guns and other evidence in the trial of a Boardman couple even though police failed to announce they were serving a search warrant when they broke down the door of their township apartment.

The majority of the justices ruled on Tuesday that if a police officer with search warrant violates the state's "knock-and-announce" law, the criminal evidence obtained during the search can still be used to prosecute the suspect.

The case stems from the November 2, 2012, arrests of Harsiman Singh and his live-in girlfriend Sherri Bembry.

Police say they obtained a warrant to search Singh's apartment after a confidential informant purchased heroin from Singh near his apartment.

Although police identified themselves, officers admitted that they did not announce that they were serving a search warrant before using a battering ram to get inside the apartment.

Officers say they found eight bundles of heroin packaged for sale, a digital scale, a stolen pistol, a semi-automatic AK-47 and two loaded magazines.

Because three children under the age of seven were living in a nearby apartment, Singh was indicted for trafficking in heroin in the vicinity of a juvenile, possessing a controlled substance and possession of a stolen firearm. Bembry was charged with permitting drug abuse.

Both suspects asked the court to suppress the evidence gathered, arguing that police violated Ohio's “knock-and-announce” law.

The trial court agreed, but the decision was overturned by the Court of Appeals.

On Tuesday, the majority of the justice of the Ohio Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court.

Justice William M. O'Neill explained the rule excluding evidence was designed to protect against unconstitutional warrantless or illegal searches.

The purpose of knock-and-announce is to protect the safety, property, and privacy of those on the premises "that can be destroyed by a sudden entrance."

"Suppressing evidence found during a warranted search of a home will not heal a physical injury, fix a door, or undo the shock of embarrassment when police enter without notice of their presence and purpose," the opinion stated.

The trial of the suspects has been delayed while the evidence issue made its way through the courts.

The court's opinion may be read here

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