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Unlawful Raid by Indiana State Excise Police Results in Settlement

by Christopher Zoukis

Two enforcement officers of the Indiana State Excise Police, the law enforcement arm of the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, agreed to a settlement of an undisclosed amount for numerous civil rights violations related to their unwarranted raid of a party at a private residence.

     On December 22, 2006, Cale S. Schnaus was hosting a party at his home where all the guests were allegedly over the drinking age of 21. Meanwhile, the Indiana State Excise Police, led by Ronald M. McDonald and Charles Butler, and the Evansville Police got together to investigate claims of underage drinking at Schnaus' residence.

     Without probable cause, permission or legal authority, McDonald led the officers onto Schnaus' property and then to a fenced-in structure at the rear of the property, where the party was taking place. McDonald and Butler burst into the building. Because they were not clearly recognizable as police, Schnaus attempted to block their entry. McDonald and Butler allegedly beat, handcuffed and arrested him. Charges were filed against Schnaus, who remained in jail for several days. When his arrest was published in his community newspaper, he lost his job.

     On October 16, 2007, Schnaus sued McDonald, Butler, the Excise Police, the Indiana ATC, and the state of Indiana in the Vanderburgh Circuit Court. The case was removed to the U.S. District Court, Evansville Division, on November 19. Schnaus alleged invasion of privacy, personal injury, property damage, trespassing, unlawful search and seizure, violation of his First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, unlawful arrest, excessive force, unreasonable intrusion onto his private property and deprivation of the due process of law.

     The defendants argued that there were no constitutional violations, and that they were entitled to qualified immunity. They argued that Schnaus' actions contributed to any alleged injuries, and that they used the least amount of force necessary. They also claimed that they had reasonable suspicion to enter the property and detain Schnaus and probable cause to arrest him.

     On May 14, 2009, Judge Richard L. Young dismissed all the claims except the unlawful search claim against McDonald and Butler in their individual capacities. On November 17, the parties agreed to a settlement and the case was dismissed with prejudice on November 23, 2009.

See: Schnaus v. State of Indiana, et al., United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Evansville Division, Case No. 3:07-cv-00165-RLY-WGH (Nov. 17, 2009)


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Related legal case

Schnaus v. State of Indiana, et al., United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Evansville Division