Wednesday, March 26, 2008

MPD Police Seek to Perform Consent Searches of Residences

News reports yesterday in the Washington Times and The Examiner state that police officers are planning to go door-to-door seeking permission to search homes for weapons and drugs in Southeast, Columbia Heights, and our neighborhood, Eckington. The Washington Post first reported this development on March 13.

I've left messages for our local police to find out what is in store for Eckington, perhaps they are not in the loop either. There are many serious concerns posed by this scheme, but two concerns obviate the issue of gun control.

First, this initative is bad for police-citizen relations. Officers should be knocking on doors, but the reason should be to introduce themselves and offer helpful anti-crime hints. Police have said on numerous occasions that it is critical that they receive information from citizens about crimes, that is how crimes are solved. Knocking on doors and asking citizens to waive their Fourth Amendment rights does not promote a positive relationship leading to the exchange of information.

Second, anyone who is not single-and-living-alone should take a moment to assess his or her personal situation. The general rule under the Fourth Amendment (consult your favorite attorney for how the law specifically applies in the District) is that anyone who has rights to the same living space you do (roommates, spouse/partner, older children, landlords, and girlfriends/boyfriends) can permit police officers to search your home. The general rule is that you would have no right to contest that search later in Court because consent is a waiver of constitutional rights.

Now is the time to sit down with your spouse, roommate or partner and talk about what should happen if the police knock on the door. It would also be a good opportunity to develop a general crisis plan (see the Be Ready D.C. program for more details) if you haven't done so already. And if the police do knock, do take a moment to thank him or her for the efforts made to fight crime in the District.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The day chief Lanier allows me to search her home - on what is essentially a fishing expedition - will be the day I allow one of her officers into my home for a warrantless search.

They claim there will be amnesty if anything illegal is found... but if a gun is found which can be linked to a crime, there goes the amnesty.

If they come knocking in my neighborhood, I know what my answer will be: “No warrant, no search.”

This is such nonsense.