Terrance Heath

Know Your Rights

Filed By Terrance Heath | April 19, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: civil rights, know your rights, police abuse, Star Hills, unauthorized search

I came across this in my work-related news-reading. According to a Bakersfield woman, five police officers -- and maybe one bounty hunter -- entered her home without consent or a warrant. At least she had the presence of mind to grab a video camera.

“Open the door now!” shouted the official just outside her window.

[Star] Hills grabbed a video camera and recorded Kern County Sheriff’s deputies and at least one unidentified bounty hunter entering her home without her consent.

“Is Mr. Baker in your house?” asked an unidentified sheriff’s deputy.

Deputies and the bounty hunter were looking for Joseph Baker, who was charged with a misdemeanor count of assault on a peace officer. Baker was not at the home, but that did not stop them from continuing their search of Hills’ home.

During the search, Hills repeatedly kept asking to see a warrant and for the names of the deputies and bounty hunter in her home.

“I have a bench warrant,” responded the bounty hunter.

“Where is it?” Hills asked in return.

“Actually, I don’t need a bench warrant … I’m a bail enforcement agent,” responded the bounty hunter.

Wrong, unless there was some drastic change to the 4th amendment that I’m aware of.

Video after the jump.

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’ve read that the protections of the 4th amendment against “unreasonable searches and seizures” have been -- via legislatures and the courts -- scaled back in service of the “wars” on drugs and terrorism. I’m not sure how far back, though it seems to be far enough to make things like these far more common than I’d imagined.

The ACLU has produced a handy publication called Know Your Rights . You can read the section on search warrants yourself.

Know Your Rights

The police have to have probable cause in order to obtain a warrant, and that usually means they have reason to believe a crime has been committed at a residence and that there evidence at the location in question that they need to preserve, or that they’re in pursuit of someone who may be in the residence. In this first video, they were looking for a particular person, but they continued looking after it was clear he wasn’t there. What’s more disturbing is that even after she opened the front door to speak to them, police officers and the bounty hunter entered her house through the back. (Either through the open window, or through a back door they accessed somehow.

Mind you, I don’t have a problem with the police. One of our neighbors is a police officer. And I was actually glad to see the police arrive so quickly when our alarm system went off accidentally. (It was a windy night. So windy that it somehow managed to blow open the door leading from the house to the garage, which triggered the alarm we set once we were in for the evening.) At the time, there was a string of violent home invasions happening in our area. So, I was glad to know the police would show up so quickly under those circumstances, and gladly let them in.

But this kind of thing is particularly disturbing. Actually, I’m not sure which is more disturbing: having the police show up demanding search my home and declaring they don’t have to tell me why, or who/what they’re looking for; or waking up/turning around to find the police already in my house. And, no, I don’t “have something to hide.” That’s not the point. If my home is to be my home, then law enforcement officers -- representing the state -- ought to have a good reason to enter and/or search it, and ought to be able to tell me that reason if I’m to allow them to in. And if they’re going to search with out my consent, then the ought to have a warrant clearly stating the reasons for the search, who or what they’re looking, and where they are going to search.

Still, even the ACLU advises you not to interfere if they decide to carry out a warrantless search anyway, because you could get arrested. Instead they advise, asking for ID’s and badge numbers, taking notes, and having a witness to confirm that you did not consent -- these days, I guess a video camera counts as a witness.

So, near as I can tell, the woman in the video above did everything she was supposed to do. They searched anyway, but now she can make a convincing case that a search was conducted without her consent and without a warrant. It looks like that’s what she’s doing. And I suspect it will take a lot more people coming forward before this kind of thing stops.


Recent Entries Filed under Politics:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


Thanks Terrance, good piece. I did not know these facts specifically... and living in very drug happy CA this could easily happen.

:: shaking head in disbelief ::

Yep. This sort of thing should be taught in high school. Knowing your rights part of being a good citizen!

Frightening but all too real and all too frequent.

I would be curious to know exactly what the law is concerning property searches in that area. Also is there a provision for citizens arrest. If there is a law stating that a warrant must be presented and a citizens arrest law on the books as well why can't the homeowner arrest them for criminal tresspass and homeinvasion? They are supposed to represent the law and as frustrating as it may be for them at times they should know better.