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Judge throws out evidence from drug force's 'bad' warrant


A search warrant used by the county's drug task force in a May raid on a Westminster woman's home wasn't good enough for District Judge Donald F. Smith, who last week ruled that evidence seized in the raid could not be used in a trial against the woman's daughter.

On May 7, a Carroll County Narcotics Task Force officer -- disguised as a United Parcel Service employee -- delivered a package containing 1.5 ounces of marijuana addressed to Pamela Davis at her home on Humbert Schoolhouse Road. Once Ms. Davis signed for the package, task force members entered the house and seized computer equipment, drug paraphernalia, another ounce of marijuana and business records. Police found her adult son on the roof. They said he had eaten marijuana. Ms. Davis, her son and daughter were arrested.

It was during Wednesday's misdemeanor drug-possession trial of Sara L. Davis, Ms. Davis' 21-year-old daughter, that Judge Smith called the original search warrant "bad." The state dropped the charge against Sara Davis.

The effect of Wednesday's search warrant ruling on the cases of Pamela Davis and her son David K. Davis was unclear last week. The same search warrant -- signed by Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. on May 7 -- used in Sara Davis' case was used to bring four-count indictments against Ms. Davis and her son.

"At this point, it doesn't seem to have any effect on those cases," said Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III, the coordinator of the drug task force. "Even if the warrant turns out to be bad, if the drug task force officers were acting in good faith, then evidence they saw in plain view will still probably be able to be used."

Ms. Davis' attorney, Charles O. Fisher Jr., could not be reached last week for comment. But Mr. Fisher in the past has maintained that the warrant was flawed.

"This kind of case is exceedingly scary," he said in May. "If it stands, you could get just about anybody in trouble by simply mailing drugs to them."

Two weeks after the raid, Pamela Davis sued the task force for the return of the computer equipment that was seized. The task force returned the computers -- valued at more than $40,000 -- in June.

The suit -- which seeks more than $100,000 in damages against the task force -- is pending.

The seized computer equipment was used in the operation of Terrapin Station, a company owned by Ms. Davis that purchases, imports and distributes Guatemalan clothing and accessories. It posts annual sales of about$380,000.

Leading to the May 7 raid was a tip from a Southern California UPS security official, who thought the package looked suspicious. Upon opening it, the official found the 1.5 ounces of marijuana, court records show. The package was resealed and sent to the Carroll County drug task force.

It was used to establish probable cause -- a necessary condition for issuance of a search warrant.

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