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Federal Judge Rules Unlicensed Dogs Aren't Protected By Fourth Amendment

Nikita Smith sued the Detroit police after they shot her three dogs on a pot raid. A judge ruled the dogs were "contraband."

Benjamin Beytekin/picture alliance / Benjamin Beyt/NewscomBenjamin Beytekin/picture alliance / Benjamin Beyt/NewscomA federal judge ruled Wednesday that a Michigan woman has no basis to sue the Detroit Police Department (DPD) for shooting her three dogs because they were not properly licensed.

U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh dismissed a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Detroit resident Nikita Smith last last year after a marijuana raid by Detroit police left her three dogs shot to death.

The ruling is the first time a federal court has considered the question of whether an unlicensed pet—in violation of city or state code—is protected property under the Fourth Amendment. Federal courts have established that pets are protected from unreasonable seizures (read: killing) by police, but the city of Detroit argued in a motion in March that Smith's dogs, because they were unlicensed, were "contraband" for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment, meaning she had no legitimate property interest in them and therefore no basis to sue the officers or department.

In his Wednesday opinion Steeh agreed.

"The Court is aware that this conclusion may not sit well with dog owners and animal lovers in general," the judge wrote. "The reason for any unease stems from the fact that while pet owners consider their pets to be family members, the law considers pets to be property."

"The requirements of the Michigan Dog Law and the Detroit City Code, including that all dogs be current with their rabies vaccines, exist to safeguard the public from dangerous animals," he continued. "When a person owns a dog that is unlicensed, in the eyes of the law it is no different than owning any other type of illegal property or contraband. Without any legitimate possessory interest in the dogs, there can be no violation of the Fourth Amendment."

And without any Fourth Amendment violation, Steeh continued, there is no basis for a civil rights claim against the city. Steeh also ruled that Smith's suit would have been dismissed even if she had a cognizable property interest in the dogs, finding that the animals presented an imminent threat to the officers.

Smith's lawsuit characterized the Detroit police officers who raided her house as a "dog death squad." She claimed officers shot one of her pets through a closed bathroom door. Graphic photos from the raid on Smith's house showed the dog lying dead in a blood-soaked bathroom.

Smith's case is only one of several lawsuits that have been filed against the DPD for dog shootings over the past two years. The city of Detroit settled one of those suits for $100,000 after dash cam video showed an officer shooting a man's dog while it was chained to a fence. It was also one of three lawsuits against DPD for shooting dogs during marijuana raids. The most recent was filed in June after DPD officers allegedly shot a couple's dogs while the animals were behind a backyard fence.

A Reason investigation last year found the DPD's Major Violators Unit, which conducts drug raids in the city, has a track record of leaving dead dogs in its wake. One officer had shot 39 dogs over the course of his career before the raid on Smith's house, according to public records.

That officer is now up to 73 kills, according to the most recent records obtained by Reason.

Two other officers involved in the Smith raid testified during the trial that they had shot "fewer than 20" and "at least 19" dogs over the course of their careers.

The court's opinion notes that the "police officers conducting the search had not received any specific training on how to handle animal encounters during raids."

The ruling also noted that Detroit police supervisors found that the shooting of Smith's dogs by officers were all justified. "However, as in many other cases, the ratifying officers did so without speaking to the officers about what had transpired," the court wrote.

Reason's review of "destruction of animal" reports filed by Detroit police officers did not find a single instance where a supervisor found that a dog shooting was unjustified.

Detroit police obtained a search warrant for Smith's residence after receiving a tip that marijuana was being sold out of it. Police confiscated 25 grams of marijuana as a result of the raid, and Smith was charged with a misdemeanor.

However, the case against her was later dismissed when officers failed to appear at her court hearing.

Neither an attorney for Smith nor the Detroit Police Department were immediately available for comment.

Photo Credit: Benjamin Beytekin/picture alliance / Benjamin Beyt/Newscom

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  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    No liberty permit for your dog, no justice.

  • Griffin3||

    Seriously, fuck these guys.
    I got nothing.

  • Number 7||

    yeah, this seems healthy.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Awww, the comment got removed?

    For that alone, I bet with 100% certainty it was right on target.

  • The Last American Hero||

    If by torture you mean make the judge and cop's young family members watch graphic videos and pics of the cop's kills spliced together with video of the judge telling everyone how it's totes cool, I'd be on board with that.

    Make these shitstains have to explain to their 5 year old nephew why putting a bullet in a nonthreatening dog is a good and noble thing.

  • croaker||

    I'd like to see animal shelters ban law enforcement from adopting.

  • Gene||

    This is rightly said multiple times daily here on H&R, hell I even said it on brickbat this morning. My fear is we'll still be compelled to say it a decade from now.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    "The Court is aware that this conclusion may not sit well with dog owners and animal lovers in general," the judge wrote. "The reason for any unease stems from the fact that while pet owners consider their pets to be family members, the law considers pets to be property."

    Well, Judge Steez, the law is an ass.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I guess when citizens shoot police dogs, there can be no criminal charges since "dogs are property".

    Good to know.

  • ||

    I think the law considers police dogs fully fledged officers. If you defend yourself from a dog biting you, it's resisting arrest and assaulting an officer.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    You totally missed the point of the article, which is that unlicensed dogs don't even count as property. Presumably, the PD has obtained the requisite state permission to have police dogs, even assuming that cops aren't above the law, which they most certainly are.

  • target||

    but it was also said: "Steeh also ruled that Smith's suit would have been dismissed even if she had a cognizable property interest in the dogs, finding that the animals presented an imminent threat to the officers"

    so as long as you feel your life is in danger it doesn't matter if they are licensed or unlicensed, they are still just property in the eyes of the law

  • Paloma||

    I can agree with the premise that they are property. But that would have to be the same for police dogs too. Anyone who could believe that dogs are "officers" has the mentality of a Nazi.

  • Chili Dogg||

    All dogs are equal. Some are just more equal.

  • Paloma||

    Exactly.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Property and contraband had broader meanings during the War Between The States over the Second Tariff of Abominations. And one of the first emancipations of that war was the confiscation of turncoat fugitive slaves as contraband. The jurisprudence is basically saying that you and your dog are slaves to kill at will.

  • croaker||

    Won't shed a tear if this Judge's dogs are shot dead.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Dogs don't deserve to be punished for their master's retardation.

    Now, if you were to propose taking a sledgehammer to the judge's car, house, electronics, etc...

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I could not condone mutilating this fine judge, because i don't want to be responsible for Reason getting subpoenaed again.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Only his unregistered computers and property...

  • Juice||

    He obviously has no dogs. Or pets of any kind. I hope, anyway.

  • Principal Spittle||

    Very judicious to call it a conclusion and not a judgement. As if it was discovered by a process of reason instead of one fools opinion.

  • Rich||

    "The Court is aware that this conclusion may not sit well with dog owners and animal lovers in general," the judge wrote.

    Here's another such conclusion:

    America's beloved dogs and cats play a significant role in causing global warming, according to a new study by UCLA.

  • Rhywun||

    Well, considering that global warming is a crock of s--t I don't suppose I'll be losing any sleep over this.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    You wouldn't believe the effect crocks of shit have on the climate.

  • Lester224||

    There's some coastal property that you should really look into buying.

    https://tinyurl.com/hku6837

  • Tomblvd||

    I think there's an article you need to be reading.

    Headlines 'exaggerated' climate link to sinking of Pacific islands

    Report's author says many media outlets have misinterpreted the science by conflating sea-level rise with climate change

    http://tinyurl.com/zcgndbm

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Clearly these Heroes are merely doing their part in the fight against global warming. They all deserve medals. /sarc

  • ||

    This is why I think global warming hysteria has about a year or two left before people just get sick of it. Whatever truth there may be to global warming and the human contribution to it, the opportunistic posturing is getting extremely silly and tiresome.

  • GroundTruth||

    "The Court is aware that this conclusion may not sit well with dog owners and animal lovers in general," the judge wrote. "The reason for any unease stems from the fact that while pet owners consider their pets to be family members, the law considers pets to be property."

    Try shooting your own (licensed) dog and then using this logic to defend yourself in court against animal cruelty charges. It really seems when all is said and done, the courts , politicians and lawyers live in a world where FYTW is the only absolute rule and everything else is just noise.

  • Ship of Theseus||

    As if these assholes even remotely understand property rights...

  • Finrod||

    They understand THEIR property rights. They don't give a flying fuck about ours.

  • OM Nullum gratuitum prandium||

    [...] the city of Detroit argued in a motion in March that Smith's dogs, because they were unlicensed, were "contraband" for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment, meaning she had no legitimate property interest in them and therefore no basis to sue the officers or department.


    The State can now declare anything you might own is "contraband" unless you get a permit from the state to own and thus have a legitimate cause to confiscate it from you or destroy.

    The lawyers at the I.J. should consider taking this to the Supreme Court, because it has very grave implications for property owners everywhere.

  • Ship of Theseus||

    Many people believe that if it's not condoned by the state, you shouldn't do it, and they're not all Dems/progs.

    There is a mentality out there that assumes that the government is right, and when they're wrong, it just needs fixing - rather than getting them out of our business entirely.

  • Curt||

    This.

    Sadly, the outrage fatigue has reached the point where "cop unnecessarily shoots dogs" stories barely raise my blood pressure because they're about as frequent as lunch.

    But, this story... this is jaw-dropping. With complete seriousness, their argument is you have no property interest in anything that isn't registered. DAFUQ?!?!

    What's that? You forgot to register your car? Sweet, looks like we have a new target to drive out to our .50 cal range. You can feel free to challenge the seizure in court (and lose) after we've already shot the shit out of it.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    What's that? You forgot to register your car? Sweet, looks like we have a new target to drive out to our .50 cal range. You can feel free to challenge the seizure in court (and lose) after we've already shot the shit out of it.

    They wouldn't do that, they'd sell it an auction (it's "abandoned" you see) and then use the money to buy more .50 cal rifles for the SWAT team, which will then be sent out to kill more dogs and loot more stuff so they can buy more shit, and so on.

  • Jen G.||

    I don't think the judge thought through the implications of this. Legally, this means the state couldn't fine someone for having an unlicensed pet because they don't 'own' it. If that pet bites someone, there is no 'owner' who could be sued. It's really horrible legal reasoning to state a person only owns something if they have a license from the state for it.

    Oh - can't be prosecuted for owning an unregistered gun either by that logic.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Well now just hold on there, that's a whole different matter! Do as I say, not as I do, Capiche?

  • Curt||

    I think there would be some hairs to split over possession vs. ownership. I.e., you maybe you didn't own the gun, but you possessed it. You didn't own the dog that bit someone, but you possessed it.

    But, I think the legal issues with this concept would still be significant.

  • Paul E||

    I like your line of thinking. About the only way to trip up the statists is to find a way to use their own argument against them in a different area.

  • Zeb||

    The State can now declare anything you might own is "contraband" unless you get a permit from the state to own and thus have a legitimate cause to confiscate it from you or destroy.

    I suppose that's always been the case. States have pretty broad legislative powers. If they can declare certain plants or animals contraband, they can do it with anything.

  • mashed potatoes||

    This is a really incredible definition of property.. like holy crap..

    Property is only property if it is licensed by the state..

  • Rhywun||

    Those cops were innocent! And if she has to bend space and time itself to arrive at that conclusion, well so be it.

  • croaker||

    Rule 308.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Silly rabbit, government does not need rules to kill you or steal your property.

  • croaker||

    No, that was my suggestion on how to handle this shit.

    https://youtu.be/XPAt2mLP_KE

  • Number 7||

    awesome. Obscure but awesome, love that movie

  • Charles Easterly||

    With this I agree.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    Amazing the cops had time to determine the dogs were unlicensed before they shot them.

  • Ship of Theseus||

    They just got lucky, of course!

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Not that it would have mattered. There was a dog in the same time zone, and that scared the courageous domestic heroes enough to shoot anything that moved and be justified in doing so.

  • Agammamon||

    Hmm, I wonder if the judge, at any time, considered the methods - if any - that the police used to determine the dogs were contraband.

    And I wonder, since the penalty for an unlicensed dog is normally a fine and then confiscation - not summary execution - how this squares up with due process.

  • Dillinger||

    fuck you, U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    And if the dogs had been licensed I've little doubt the good judge would have just come up with another fucking excuse.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Steeh also ruled that Smith's suit would have been dismissed even if she had a cognizable property interest in the dogs, finding that the animals presented an imminent threat to the officers.

    There is literally no recourse, no matter what, that a dog owner has, other than public opinion. And the thin, blue line is generally also shameless, using its own fear as a shield for any number of violent misdeeds that would get anyone else in legal trouble.

  • Cloudbuster||

    I have a lot of property that's not "licensed" or "registered" what the fuck do my property rights have to do with state certificates?

  • Rhywun||

    And it's not like they won't just steal your property anyway if they think it committed a crime or if the sheriff's office needs remodeling.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Don't worry these judge was just making up excuses.

    They will find out how well their excuses work when the Tree of Liberty gets a water'n.

  • Finrod||

    I volunteer this judge and this cop to water the tree.

  • Dillinger||

    the first cop to check a dog's tags before shooting will be the first.

  • Mark22||

    You'd think Detroit has more important things to do than kill people's pets and go after pot users.

  • ||

    I mean they're really setting it up so that even for licensed owners and otherwise citizens in good standing, the only reasonable option when the cops show up is to just spray and pray.

  • MarkLastname||

    I guess that's what you get for still trying to live in Detroit.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    In the criminal justice system, family pets are considered especially easy and fun shoots. In Detroit, the roided-up officers who kill these dogs on a regular basis are members of an unaccountable squad known as the Major Violators Unit. These are their stories.

  • Fuck You - Cut Spending||

    Dick Wolf really is the devil.

  • Finrod||

    Makes me want to majorly violate every single one of them, and if they survive, violate them again.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Thread winner.

  • Mark22||

    So, if my dog is licensed in city A, but we travel to city B, does that mean cops in city B can kill him at will without consequences?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The licensing was irrelevant. I don't know why the judge brought it up. The court ruled that the case was going to be dismissed regardless of property rights, as police can legally do whatever they like when claiming personal fear.

  • ||

    The licensing was irrelevant. I don't know why the judge brought it up.

    Honestly, it should cost the judge his bench and/or license. "They feared for their lives." or "The fog or war." or whatever puts it in the hands of the PD and/or the officers and at least leaves room for "Bad cases make for bad law" poor decision-making. Instead the judge, intentionally or not, took the PD's clusterfuck and used it as an opportunity to say 'Fuck the 4th Am.'

  • Finrod||

    This judge and this cop make me fear for my life, so I should be able to murder them with no charges.

  • ||

    Officer Morrison, Gaines, and Howell all testified that Smoke [the dog] then opened the closed bathroom door by himself. According to Officer Gaines, "[t]he dog opened the door. It was amazing. I was amazed. I was literally amazed."

    ...

    None of the police reports or documents reference Smoke opening the bathroom door.

    After reading the testimony of these officers, I have significantly less respect for Ridley Scott's storytelling abilities. Their encounter sound like a cross between Aliens and Jurassic Park.

    Bathroom police indeed.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    I really hope you're joking about the cop's testimony, but I'm not willing to confirm it because it's better than 50/50 odds that it's not a joke and the pig actually said that in open court and was believed (because cops never lie, IT IS KNOWN), and I've lost enough of my faith in humanity for one day.

  • ||

    My quote is from the official ruling/court transcript(?) linked in the article above.

    It almost sounds like a quote from Trump except, AFAIK, he's never shot someone's pet in front of them in their own house before.

  • Roger the Shrubber||

    So if an unlicensed dog bites someone, it's technically not owned by anyone so good luck getting restitution from the dog.

    This decision is so tortured it has to be overturned. A judgement that basically says 'it's OK when cops do it' would have more justification.

  • Jen G.||

    That was my first thought on the implications of this. Technically, this means you can't fine someone for an unlicensed pet because they don't 'own' it. It is just a stray they are feeding, training, keeping in their house...

  • ||

    So, what you're saying is if I collect a bunch of strays and key them to attack on something like black satin robes or a command like 'Honorable' or 'Stea!', I'd almost certainly be free of guilt of any of the unintended consequences of the actions of animals that I don't own. Or, at the very least, I shouldn't be harboring such animals on my property when the cops show up.

  • Radioactive||

    what we need is a laser that you can mount on your dogs collar that lets them shot back...

  • MarkLastname||

    Just goes to show, we need better dog control laws. We'll start calling big black scary dogs 'assault dogs.'

  • Eek Barba Durkle||

    A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a Michigan woman has no basis to sue the Detroit Police Department (DPD) for shooting her three dogs because they were not properly licensed sentient carbon-based lifeforms, and therefore a terrible threat to the officer making it home safely to his family that night.

  • ace_m82||

    Rise up, Judge of the earth;
    pay back to the proud what they deserve.
    How long, Lord, will the wicked,
    how long will the wicked be jubilant?
    They pour out arrogant words;
    all the evildoers are full of boasting.
    They crush your people, Lord;
    they oppress your inheritance.
    They slay the widow and the foreigner;
    they murder the fatherless.
    They say, "The Lord does not see;
    the God of Jacob takes no notice."

    Does he who fashioned the ear not hear?
    Does he who formed the eye not see?
    Does he who disciplines nations not punish?
    Does he who teaches mankind lack knowledge?
    The Lord knows all human plans;
    he knows that they are futile.

    He will repay them for their sins
    and destroy them for their wickedness;
    the Lord our God will destroy them.

    (excepts from Psalm 94)

    "the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

    Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him."

    David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die!" 2 Samuel 12 3-5

  • Finrod||

    We need some good-old-fashioned Old Testament punishment for these shithead fuckwits.

  • Gene||

    Or Persian.

    Scaphism, also known as the boats, was an ancient Persian method of execution designed to inflict torturous death. The name comes from the Greek σκάφη, skáphe, meaning "anything scooped (or hollowed) out". It entailed trapping the victim inside two boats, feeding and covering them with milk and honey, and allowing them to fester and be devoured by vermin.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    "How much longer?" Hey, that's me! Quo Usque Tandem!

  • Sevo||

    So do they cut notche in the gun handle to keep track of the numbers?

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    "We're gonna need bigger handles".

  • MarkLastname||

    No he cuts off one of each dog's ears to add to his growing necklace of them.

  • SoberPhobic||

    Fuck your ancestors to the eighteenth generation!

  • Homple||

    The judge's biography.

    The Honorable George C. Steeh was appointed United States District Judge in 1998 by President Clinton. He previously served as a Macomb County Circuit Court Judge from 1990 until 1998, after serving for two years as a District Court Judge in Mt. Clemens. Judge Steeh received a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1969, and his J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 1973. Before being elected to the judiciary, and in addition to his several years in private practice, he served as First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in Genesee County, as Macomb County Probate Court-Public Administrator, and as a member of the Macomb County Board of Commissioners. Judge Steeh also has served as the Chairperson of the Macomb County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council; as Founding Member and on the Board of the Child Advocacy Center of Macomb County; Officer and member of the Board of Directors of Comprehensive Youth Services; an active member of the Interfaith Council for Racial Justice; President of the Arab American Bar Association; and member of the Boards of Directors of several other public service and charitable organizations.

    You know...a moron.

  • wef||

    A high-IQ, go-along-to-get-along lickspittle.

  • The Last American Hero||

    A Wolverine. Figures.

  • Rhywun||

    The Woodchippening II: Start Your Engines

  • Finrod||

    Too quick and easy a death for them. I'm thinking the ancient Chinese death by slicing: cut off a small piece of them once a day every day.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    If you can't have off-puttingly grandiose, bordering-on-terroristic-threats torture fantasies on the Internet, where CAN you have them?

  • Finrod||

    We don't all masturbate every shower like you do.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    I'm seeing subpoenas. Lots of subpoenas. Flying your way. These judicial types just don't have much of a sense of humor, you know. Especially of the federal variety. No appreciation of hyperbole whatsoever.

  • Juice||

    So if cops find any other kind of "contraband" they are authorized to just go ahead and destroy it? Aren't they supposed to take it into evidence and change you with possession? Like say they find you selling some knock-off Gucci purses or something. Instead of seizing them and charging you, it's ok if they just pile them up and light them on fire?

  • Zeb||

    Not all contraband is criminal to possess.

  • Juice||

    Does that mean it's ok for cops to destroy it on sight?

  • Juice||

    Also, lack of a dog license is usually grounds for a fine, not the killing the dog in question.

  • ||

    Like say they find you selling some knock-off Gucci purses or something. Instead of seizing them and charging you, it's ok if they just pile them up and light them on fire?

    Yeah, it's all kinds of fucked up. Unlicensed animals weren't specifically covered under the warrant, little effort was made to verify the licensing of the animals, and, as you and others indicated, the specific punishment is not immediate destruction of the animals.

    Like if the cops show up at your house under the auspices that you're selling cocaine, discover a Redwings jersey in the closet and shoot you in the kneecaps for it. No matter how much sense it makes, that shit's not legal.

  • The Last American Hero||

    If it's a Keith Primeau jersey, I'd side with the cops.

  • wef||

    No obeisance, no papers. No papers, no mercy. So why not open season on undocumented aliens?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a Michigan woman has no basis to sue the Detroit Police Department (DPD) for shooting her three dogs because they were not properly licensed.

    U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh dismissed a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Detroit resident Nikita Smith

    *fires up woodchipper*

  • brec||

    IMHO the headline and lede of the article are misleading. Yes, the judge ruled, because the cops' pleading raised the issue along with many others, that the dogs as property were not protected by the 4th amendment because they were unlicensed. He explicitly acknowledged the cops didn't know they were unlicensed. The dismissal was NOT based on this specific issue.

    I am writing only about this narrow legal question as it related to the dismissal. I do not condone the shootings.

  • brec||

    P.S. The judge did not invent the not-licensed law; the decision on that specific issue is supported by local law and precedent. Don't shoot the messenger (the judge).

  • Cynical Asshole||

    One officer had shot 39 dogs over the course of his career before the raid on Smith's house, according to public records.

    That officer is now up to 73 kills, according to the most recent records obtained by Reason.

    Holy fucking shit. That's rage inducing. I truly hope that fucking pig gets Lou Gehrig's disease, stage 4 cancer of his... everything, and dies slowly and painfully.

  • MarkLastname||

    73, wow. That guy is just a plain psychopath. You don't kill that many dogs unless you're looking for dogs to kill.

  • ||

    You don't kill that many dogs unless you're looking for dogs to kill.

    As someone, at one point, specifically/professionally charged with looking for cats to kill. 73 is still a lot.

  • croaker||

    Do we have a name? Every animal shelter in Michigan should be informed that this is not an appropriate adopter.

  • @TheBitcoinimist||

    That's ludicrous. I hate to say it, but somebody got to him. Keep in mind, I'm only commenting on this article.


    His own statement fails him: "When a person owns...." key word: owns. They have an ownership interest in the dogs, which is greater than a possessory interest, the latter usually referring to tenants leasing from a landlord.


    The law (correctly) considers pets to be property and the judge acknowledges as much in his statement, confirming that the ownership of the pets was not in question, that he knew who owned them, and that he understands ownership interests.


    However, "...in the eyes of the law it is no different than owning any other type of illegal property or contraband," is simply untrue. Of course it is. Unlicensed property does not mean that by definition it solely exists as illegal property or contraband. Take for example, unlicensed cars. The license was never obtained, the license was stolen, the license expired, etc. Such cars are not free for the city to take. An officer cannot pull a driver over, find that the vehicle is legitimately unlicensed, state that it is no different than owning any other type of illegal property or contraband and therefore the owner has no interest, and thus impound the car on the spot for a city auction.


    If Detroit thought it could get away with that one, it would.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    An officer cannot pull a driver over, find that the vehicle is legitimately unlicensed, state that it is no different than owning any other type of illegal property or contraband and therefore the owner has no interest, and thus impound the car on the spot for a city auction.

    If Detroit thought it could get away with that one, it would.

    Actually this ruling gives them cover to do exactly that. So thanks to this precedent, they actually can and in the very near future most likely will do exactly that and get away with it.

  • brec||

    I ain't gonna cite to sources here, just state some points in the ruling w/r the 4th amendment / property interest issue.

    Contraband: property that is illegal to possess. In both the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan it is illegal to possess unlicensed dogs which are older than 6 months.

    For more, see the ruling, linked to in the 3rd para. of the article above.

    It is not illegal to own an unregistered car.

  • ||

    Contraband: property that is illegal to possess. In both the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan it is illegal to possess unlicensed dogs which are older than 6 months.

    Bullhonky. The punishment for an unlicensed animal isn't summary and immediate destruction of the animal.

    There's plenty of stuff that's illegal to own or do in MI and Detroit without a license. If the police show up on an unrelated warrant and decide to enforce licensing standards via lethal force and absent any knowledge of the license, the judge is invariably supposed to back them?

    There are loads of reasons why the cops could've justifiably killed these animals. This judge chose to honor this method/reasoning. Acting like he's just the messenger means he should be stripped of his robe.

  • brec||

    This judge chose to honor this method/reasoning.

    That wasn't what I took away from reading the opinion if it means it was the primary or sufficient reason the cops got off. "This method/reasoning" (contraband not protected against 4th amendment seizure [killing]) was used to deny the plaintiffs' 4th amendment claim, which wasn't their only claim. Meanwhile, the judge accepted the cops' (defendants') claim that the killings were necessary for their safety.

    The police didn't "decide to enforce licensing". As the judge says, they didn't know the dogs were not licensed.

  • ||

    Yeah, the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that you're either not a libertarian, just splitting hairs, or both.

    As was pointed out before, it's illegal to have knockoff Gucci purses and bootleg DVDs. If the police show up on a drug bust, they can just lump the purses and DVDs in a pile wholly ignorant of the licensed status and set them on fire. If they had impounded the purses and DVDs and, after investigation, discovered they were illegal, destroyed them, you might have a point. Otherwise, even if the judge is just the messenger, this (still) carries fucked up implications well beyond the 4th*, despite your protests.

    *Is it a similar case in the 7th district? I'd be interested to see the outcome of a summary destruction of weapons on the scene without requesting a FOID card.

  • brec||

    I consider myself a libertarian. Maybe I'm splitting hairs.

    I read the article's headline and initial emphasis as saying that the cops were exonerated for killing the dogs because a judge said the dogs were contraband and thus not protected (from seizure/killing) by the 4th amendment.

    I think that it's at least a reasonable reading of the law in that locale to say they were contraband and not protected by the 4th. I don't think the cops were exonerated because of that (but the victim family's 4th amendment claim was rejected because of that.)

  • ||

    Federal district court judges deserves their own special place in hell.

  • ||

    Them and family court judges

  • croaker||

    What Circle of Hell is reserved for oathbreakers? That's where this clown belongs.

  • Leo Kovalensky||

    Dog Live Matter

  • Leo Kovalensky||

    *Lives

  • SamHell||

    Whatever happened to "Possession is 9/10's of the law"?

  • Brandybuck||

    Woodchipper time.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Well, then that laughs by the gun... heck, might live to learn all about retaliation and payment in kind--if their karma don't git 'em first. I intend to approach dog owners before next election...

  • CE||

    In a just world, conducting an armed raid on someone's house for owning a small amount of an herb would be considered a major crime. So would shooting their dogs with no provocation.

  • sgreffenius||

    The reasoning here is simple: dogs are dangerous animals. Therefore if you encounter one, shoot it. Do you see how easily this reasoning extends to other situations? A black man with a gun is a dangerous person. Therefore if you encounter one, shoot him. A black man who tries to run away threatens your image as a tough, competent cop if he gets away. Therefore if a black man runs, shoot him in the back. If a large black man does anything unpredictable, don't take any chances. Shoot him. Then leave him dead in the street for four hours, like road kill.

    I don't think we need any more examples here. If a dog wags his tail and trots up to say hello, shoot him. If a dog is tied up, shoot it. If a dog is penned in the bathroom, shoot it. If a woman walks up to a police car in her pajamas after calling 911, shoot her. You don't even need a reason. Just pull the trigger...

  • Mark22||

    The reasoning here is simple: dogs are dangerous animals.

    There are 90 million dogs owned as houshold pets, more feral ones, and they kill about 20-30 people each year.

    There are 330 million humans living in the US, more feral ones, and they kill about 16000 people each year.

    There are about 1 million cops in the US, more feral ones, and they kill upwards of 1000 people each year (probably a lot more).

    You do the math.

  • sgreffenius||

    ...I'll tell you something: 'better safe than sorry' does _not_ apply to police officers with guns. If an officer goes out on a call ready to apply that principle, no matter what the situation, their observable behavior is worse than that of most criminals, no matter what their intentions or their justifications. The idea that you can shoot a dog or a person because you suddenly feel yourself in danger appears insane to the rest of the world, but in police culture, it has become normal behavior. As the article indicates, your supervisor will never question the shooting if it's a dog. If it's a person, your supervisor will make sure you have a good attorney.

    Shooting dogs has become so common, you have to wonder if police don't regard it as target practice. Or if they're just cruel.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Hmmm... Now here's a fun game:

    How do I express what I (and everyone else) want to express, without getting banned?

    Clever wordplay? Eh, pushing it. Some sort of threat or expression of desired outcome that doesn't involve law-breaking? Nah, that's no fun.

    But of course, what am I thinking! After all, you already know what I'm referring to, don't you dear reader?

    So just... picture it. In your mind.

    Picture it VERY VERY GRAPHICALLY.

    And *do* take your time...

  • generalisimo14||

    One only has the right to property if they have a permission slip from the state now!
    If I need permission to exercise a right, then it is not a right at all but a privilege gifted to me by the lord of the manor. These pukes need to remind themselves what is a right and what is a privilege.

  • Tshaw||

    Islamists despise dogs, so this "federal judge" who ruled that unlicensed dogs can be shot is instituting sharia law! This ruling is pushing sharia, an ILLEGAL FOREIGN LAW, onto the United States citizens.

  • LesMay||

    Now according to this ruling committing a misdemeanor is license (no pun) to deprive you of your property and destroy it even if you haven't been found guilty of or charged with said misdemeanor. Its ok to violate peoples rights if you can find some minor crime they may have committed

    The judge has pretty much just said its ok to come into your house, destroy your property, and deny you any legal recourse for committing a misdemeanor crime that you are never even charged with let alone found guilty of.

    It also ignores that the standard punishment for owning unlicensed dogs is making the owner buy a license and fining them. A misdemeanor that is not typically punished by killing the dog. A misdemeanor that you typically have to be cited for to be found guilty of.

    Its like asset forfeiture on steroids, except they destroy your property instead of taking it from you.

  • mysmartstuffs||

    what we need is a laser that you can mount on your dogs collar that lets them shot back...
    My recent post: Stock Media PLR Review
    My recent post: Instapoint Review

  • ||

    If they were pit bulls (and this being some gang banger's house in Detroit they almost certainly were) then the cops were doing the world a favor.

  • ScottyBoman||

    The DPD has civilian oversight, but they have totally dropped the ball on this one. The Detroit Board of Police Commissioners can set policy and investigate violations of that policy. If elected I would move to end this brutal practice, investigate alleged violations, and see that violators are disciplined harshly. Nobody exercising this level of brutality has any business working in the DPD.

    I would love to meet with the victims of this brutal crime.

    If you are as outraged as I, please help get me elected:

    http://boman4detroit.com

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