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Judge Concludes Police Can Make Database Searches For Personal Reasons

Posted by Steve Karimi | Mar 28, 2017 | 0 Comments

A bizarre lawsuit was dismissed this week in Snohomish County, after a judge concluded that policemen may query official databases even when motivated by purely personal reasons. The troubling conclusion is logically rooted in a lack of legislation prohibiting officers from making such searches. The court case seems to have unwittingly called attention to this legislative oversight. While the presiding district judge called the officer's behavior “deeply troubling,” he held that the legal claims against him “could not be maintained." The dismissal came two years after its 2015 filing. Attorneys for the officer, Andrew Thor, called it a “weird little case about a private tryst gone awry.” The Seattle Times interpreted the dismissal, saying one “cannot sue a man for being a scoundrel.”

Lake Stevens police officer Andrew Thor was married with a child. Responding to an ad on a Craigslist casual encounters page, he arranged a meeting with a woman named Natalie Brunner. The two continued to see each other and began a romantic relationship, while Thor was still married - unbeknownst to Brunner. He variantly told her he was in the British Air Force Special Forces, or a CIA assassin. She was unaware Thor was a police officer. During their relationship, he queried her name in law enforcement databases 23 times. After three or so years of seeing one another, Brunner searched Thor's name on the internet, thereby discovering his true identity as a Lake Stevens police officer

Upon learning of the searches, Brunner sued Thor and the Lake Stevens Police Department alleging that her civil rights had been violated. However, because none of Thor's deceit was done in his “official capacity” as an officer, it did not constitute a civil rights violation for Brunner. Furthermore, he did not share any of the official information he obtained about her so no crime had occurred. Since the suit was filed, Thor resigned from the department and no longer works in law enforcement or the public sector. On his behalf, Thor's attorney stated, “He desires to keep his private life private. Ongoing publication of his past, nonwork-related relationship with the plaintiff is detrimental to Mr. Thor's marriage, wife and children.”

Checks on police power are necessary facets of the justice system. The case served to highlight that this so-called “deeply-troubling" and objectively invasive practice of conducting personal inquiries actually holds up under legal scrutiny. Whether or not it should be ‘corrected' remains to be seen.

Criminal charges, rights violation, police authority and the law are all incredibly nuanced in nature. If you have received criminal charges in the Seattle area, you will require a skilled criminal defense attorney to review and defend your charges. Do not hesitate to contact defense attorney Steve Karimi today for a free consultation.

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.

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Named a "rising star" in criminal defense by Washington Law and Politics magazine, Mr. Karimi is a former prosecutor for King County who uses his insight into prosecution strategies to protect his clients' rights in criminal court.