Her Rights Were ‘Blown Up’ by City of Miami Police and Broward Sheriff’s Office

Friday May 23, 2008

Brandon Hensler, Director of Communciations, 786-363-2722 or media@aclufl.org

MIAMI – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida’s Greater Miami Chapter settled a federal lawsuit with the City of Miami and Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO) on behalf of Emily Vogel and Hermann Vogel (Emily’s father). Emily Vogel, a Miami photographer, was subjected to an unlawful detention and illegal search and seizure of her car and personal property by the Miami Police Department and Broward Sheriff’s Office prior to the start of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) summit held in downtown Miami in November, 2003. The ACLU was able to vindicate the Vogels’ constitutional rights by taking the City of Miami and BSO to court and having them indemnify the Vogels for their damages.

“I hope the City of Miami and BSO will focus on re-training its officers on arrest and search procedures to prevent this from happening again – it is important that the Miami Police and BSO recognize their lack of regard for constitutional rights,” said Rosalind Matos, ACLU of Florida South Florida Staff Counsel. “Law enforcement has the dual responsibility to keep the peace and order, and protect the constitutional rights of those exercising their First Amendment rights by participating in the events. It is clear that law enforcement in Miami accomplished the first and neglected the second.

"We are pleased that this case has been settled," Matos added, "but we still have four outstanding cases stemming from the conduct of police officers during the FTAA-related demonstrations.”

At the time, Ms. Vogel was a photography student at Florida International University (FIU) and was not part of the FTAA demonstration. She drove to downtown Miami to photograph an anti-tobacco rally that was taking place there, which she did for her photography class at the university. Without probable cause and without a warrant, officers employed by the City of Miami and BSO drilled holes into the Vogels’ car, which was lawfully parked on a City street, and detonated explosives causing the destruction of the car and damage of her personal property—including boxes of film negatives—inside the car. The warrantless search, seizure, damage, and destruction of the Vogels’ property and Ms. Vogel’s detention was without any legal justification, and in violation of the Vogels’ constitutional rights.

Neither the Vogels’ car nor its contents posed any threat to persons or property in the area. Even though no bomb, contraband or any illegal substance or material was ever found in the Vogels’ car, police officers provided her no assistance after the incident and left her stranded in downtown Miami for eight hours because the police would not allow tow trucks to enter the area.

The $17,000 settlement in the Vogels’ case settles all claims for damages and constitutional violations against the City of Miami and BSO defendants. This settlement was reached after U.S. District Judge Altonaga denied motions for summary judgment filed by the Miami Police and BSO.

Lead counsel for the ACLU in Vogel v. City of Miami et al are Rosalind Matos, ACLU of Florida Staff Counsel and Ray Taseff, Esq., ACLU cooperating attorney. The case was filed in February 2007 in the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida. Other FTAA-related ACLU cases include: Carl Kesser & Martha Kesser v. City of Miami et al (settled); Owaki v. City of Miami, et al (settled); Delgado v. Miami-Dade County; Lorne Battiste, et al v. Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne et al; David Lippman v. City of Miami et al; and Amnesty International USA v. Louis Battle and Thomas Cannon.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida is freedom's watchdog, working daily in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend individual rights and personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For additional information, visit our Web site at: www.aclufl.org

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2008 Press Releases