Search and Seizure

Proposed Ordinance Would Give Cops an Invitation to All the Cool Parties

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Warner Brothers

Suppose you are  a police officer responding to complaints about a noisy party, and you suspect some of the guests are younger than 21. In addition to asking the host to turn down the music when he answers the door, you'd like to come in and make sure that no minors are drinking. But the host won't let you in, and you don't have a warrant. Ordinarily, that would be the end of the matter. An ordinance under consideration in Montville, New Jersey, would offer you a third option: Walk in and search the place anyway, as long as you think you have probable cause to believe teenagers are drinking inside.

Not surprisingly, the proposal has provoked considerable controversy, to the point that neither the mayor, the police chief, nor members of the Montville Township Committee, the community's governing body, would talk to a local reporter about it. Presumably supporters of the ordinance are relying on the "exigent circumstances" exception to the usual Fourth Amendment requirement of a warrant to search someone's home without consent. According to a gloss by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, "exigent circumstances are present when a reasonable person [would] believe that entry…was necessary to prevent physical harm to the officers or other persons, the destruction of relevant evidence, the escape of the suspect, or some other consequence improperly frustrating legitimate law enforcement efforts."

If Bud Light disappearing down the gullet of an 18-year-old counts as "destruction of relevant evidence," Montville's town fathers may be on to something. Otherwise, it seems like a stretch. And depending on how the average Montville cop interprets probable cause in this context, the new rule may in practice be an invitation to every party attended by teenagers (or 20-year-olds).

It's encouraging that the local CBS station apparently was unable to find anyone willing to speak on the record in favor of warrantless home searches to catch adolescent imbibers. "That's more of a parent responsibility rather than a police responsibility," one parent said. A token teenager added, "It's not really their business to be going into people's houses. If you want to do that, you need to get a warrant." For now, at least.

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  1. …to the point that neither the mayor, the police chief, nor members of the Montville Township Committee, the community’s governing body, would talk to a local reporter about it.

    They have to pass the ordinance to find out what’s in it.

  2. Presumably supporters of the ordinance are relying on the “exigent circumstances” exception to the usual violation of the Fourth Amendment requirement of a warrant to search someone’s home without consent.

    There are no exceptions.

    1. The 4th amendment does not require a warrant for searches. Read it again.

      1. Um, wut?

        The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

        I mean, it doesn’t say “Unless you don’t want to bother with a warrant, because, whatever. Knock yourself out!”. It’s pretty damn clear.

        1. Except for the 3rd Amendment, the entire Bill of Rights is a dead letter. In every case, the rights “enshrined in the Bill of Rights” can be summarized with a paraphrase of Judge Bork’s inkblot, the 9th Amendment: “The rights of the people shall not be denied or disparaged unless officials think they should be because FYTW.”

  3. Who comes up with all that nonsense.

    http://www.CryptAnon.tk

  4. A token teenager added, “It’s not really their business to be going into people’s houses. If you want to do that, you need to get a warrant.”

    Oh, you’ll be smoking a turd with Manson, pretty soon, there, buddy!

  5. So let’s outsource our responsibility for the behavior our kids to the government. Turn them over to the educators during the day and the SWAT team at night.

    1. I fail to see a distinction.

  6. …”exigent circumstances are present when a reasonable person [would] believe that entry…was necessary to prevent physical harm to the officers or other persons…

    Well clearly, alcohol touching the lips of anyone under the age of 21 would cause great “physical harm” to that person and thus meets the criteria. So feel free to let yourself in Officer Friendly. You need to save that youngster from himself.

    Fuck! It just keeps slipping away, doesn’t it?

    1. It will continue to do so as long as govt. weasels their way around the law and the sheep allow it.

  7. [blockquote]…or some other consequence improperly frustrating legitimate law enforcement efforts.[/blockquote]

    Way to close that loophole, 9th Circuit.

    1. But these law enforcement efforts are not legitimate.

      The difference between the America of 1792 and the America of 2014 is government in 1792 didn’t use weasel words and government in 2014 only uses weasel words.

      1. “persons held to service or labor”
        “other persons”

        1. “reasonable”

        2. Statists used weasel words back in 1792, too.

          The holy Founders also saw fit to pass the Alien and Sedition Acts just six years later.

          The invisible FYTW clause was in the original Constitution. There was no “Golden Age” in American history.

  8. I thought the Fourth Amendment was put in because there were plenty of towns trying to do batshit insane things like this back in the 1700’s (think: witches) and this would be a blanket protection for the good of the union.

    Now of course the Federal government is well entrenched and batshit insane ordinances are okey dokey with the Feds because all authority is good. Except pot.

    1. Look, we’ve evolved! It’s not ok to burn witches anymore, are you crazy!? It’s ok to break into people homes in the middle of the night with no proof of any crime going on and burn up babies with war zone weaponry, but IT IS NOT OK TO BURN WITHCHES! DO YOU GOT IT, COMRADE, WE’RE SO MORE ENLIGHTENED NOW! PROGRESS! FORWARD, COMRADES,UTOPIA IS NIGH!

  9. What kinda pussy teenage drinking parties are happening nowadays? The ones we had, the cops would be scared to enter, with good reason. Of course, they didn’t have tanks and grenade launchers back then.

    1. Yeah, not every call required a SWAT team response and in fact only very few major cities had swat teams initial for dealing with armed robbery hostage situations.

  10. Repeal the 21-year-old drinking age.

  11. Brought to you by the same mentality that has 84 y.o. customers showing I.D. to purchase a product barred to those 18 and younger…yeah, who could honestly believe they will only be using this to enter the homes of people allowing ‘minors’ to drink?

  12. That young hot girl looks like she had too much to drink. Go have a seat in the back of my cruiser baby.

  13. Scene: A house in an upper middle class neighborhood, with the mailbox reading, “Goldberg.” It’s the first night of Passover. The seder has gotten to the point where the participants have finished dinner, have said the after-dinner prayer, and are beginning to recite “Kos shel Eliyahu ha-Navi,” where (legendarily) the spirit of Elijah comes to the door to have some wine. The kids are giggling about the fun they had with the afikomen, but they’re getting a bit drowsy from the late hour, the large meal, and the ritual wine.

    A knock comes on the door. It’s Elijah! But with a twist- it’s Officer Elijah Thigpen with his partner Officer Dathan Pharrow. Tey see the joyous family around the seder table celebrating their holiday. There are wine glasses with a red liquid in front of the kids.

    Flashbangs. Dog shootings. Grandma knocked to the ground, being kicked with cries of “STOP RESISTING!” Rest of family held at gunpoint until CPS arrives to take away the kids (with a stop at the hospital to treat the burns and broken limbs). Grandma has died from shock, a few broken ribs, and punctured lungs.

    The department issues a statement. Procedures followed. We’re acting within the law. We’re protecting the children.

  14. Montville, New Jersey is making a good start, but the correct response to a noise complaint is dynamic entry with quick termination of any canines and any party-goer who makes a sudden move, along with a good beat-down of any party-goer who mouths-off.

  15. Jesus, don’t tell me this law is making a comeback?

    This is a model ordinance that every Police Department in Monmouth County, New Jersey,trying to have your municipalities adopt back in the 1980s. To their everlasting credit, the elected officials refused to bite.The police then turn to the State legislature and try to have the law enacted on a statewide basis. The ACLU got involved and the search provision was taken out of the bill.

    Apparently, the police are like Al Qaeda: The assault us on a long-term timeframe and never give up.

    1. Ugh. This is what happens when you rely on voice dictation while out of doors.

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