A federal lawsuit has been filed against Georgia law enforcement officers responsible for the mass arrest of more than 60 party-goers for a single bag of weed. The legal action, entered on behalf of seven named individuals and a “class of similarly situated persons,” alleges that deputies with the Cartersville, Georgia police department and the Bartow County Sheriff’s Department violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights when they entered a private home without a search warrant and arrested more than 60 people enjoying a party.
“Without any reasonable or particularized suspicion to believe that any individual visitor, let alone every person at the party, possessed, had knowledge of, or exercised control over the suspected marijuana located in the private home, Cartersville police officers announced that no one was free to leave and detained and seized everyone at the party,” reads the lawsuit, which was filed with support from the Southern Center for Human Rights.
On New Year’s Eve, 2017, according to court documents and media reports, Cartersville police officers responding to a call of shots fired entered a private home where the party was being held. Once inside, police found an unattended bag containing less than one ounce of marijuana and announced that everyone was under arrest for possession of marijuana when no one claimed ownership of the pot. More officers and deputies from the sheriff’s department and the Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force were called to assist. The house was cleared and everyone was detained for two hours while a search warrant was obtained. During that time, the party guests were detained outside the home in freezing temperatures without access to bathroom facilities. Eventually, all of the party attendees, their hands secured with zip ties, were searched and transported to jail in sheriff’s department vans.