No Warrant? No Problem!

This blog is based off of a personal experience I had with my city's police force a few years ago. It's not a police-bashing article, per se, however, I will not sugarcoat the events for you.

I'm writing this article to hopefully shine a light on some of the problems I've encountered with law enforcement, and more importantly, the training they receive and the laws that they enforce.

The Incident

It was the evening of September 8, 2014. I remember the exact date because I went to the bar with my wife to meet up with some friends to watch Monday Night football. The Lions destroyed the Giants that night, which was epic. The Lions still had Calvin Johnson and it was incredible to see the football season get off to a great start. Megatron (AKA Calvin Johnson) finished the game with 2 touchdowns, and 164 receiving yards.

The Lions had this player and couldn't win one playoff game. Chew on that.


After the game, the wife and I stayed and chatted with our friends and I drank a couple more beers. As the night wore on and the conversation died down, the talk of how early everyone had to get up the next morning was inevitable. We paid our tab, said our goodbyes, and we got in our car and headed home. Seeing as Grace was driving, I opened the box of leftovers from the bar and started pigging out on cold chicken wings. Mmm... or not. It was not one of my better moments, but I was going be home soon, and I wanted to get to sleep as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, that was not going to happen any time soon.

As Grace pulled down our street I noticed not one, not two, not three, but four cop cars on our street. I turned to Grace and said in a mocking voice, “Uh oh... somebody's in trouble.” You can imagine my surprise as we pulled in our driveway to discover four police officers by the side door of my home. One of the police officers had a lock picking kit, and was picking the lock to our door.

“What in the eff are they doing?” Grace asked in a confused, and shocked tone.

I shook my head as to say I had no idea. The police officers stared back at us with a surprised look on their faces. They had that, 'the cat that ate the canary' look. I opened the car door and got out. Within seconds I was surrounded by all four police officers. One shined his flashlight right in my face. I stood there blinded by the flashlight as the officer holding it immediately started asking me questions.

This is almost how I exactly remember it.

“Do you live here?” he asked in a stern, demanding, no nonsense tone.

“Uh, yeah.” I answered.

“What's your name?” He barked at me.

It was this question that made something click in my head. A couple years prior a lawyer had taken guitar lessons from me. He was a pretty cool cat and he would give me tips about the law from time to time. On one occasion he gave advice about what to do if I was questioned by a police officer. “Always ask if you're being detained. If they say no, you do NOT answer any of their questions.” So, I figured I'd try it out.

“Excuse me, officer.”


“Am I being detained?”

It was almost as if my words casted a magical spell because the police officers looked nervously at each other before the one asking me the questions answered.

Archmage NickelNDime with a LV 1 in legal jargon.

“No sir, you are not being detained, but we would appreciate it if you could help us out by giving us your name.” I noticed as he said this his stern and intimidating tone melted into a more relaxed and soothing voice. Almost like switching from bad cop to good cop. It was at this point that I started to feel the whole weight of the entire situation. The police are trying to enter my home! I thought. Inside, the adrenaline rushed through my body, yet on the outside I tried to remain as calm as possible. Anger started to cloud my thoughts and I tried my best to think as clearly as possible.

It was my turn to ask the questions.

“Why are you trying to enter my residence?” I asked in the most monotone voice I could muster.

“Sir, we will be happy to answer those questions if you tell us your name.”

“Yeah that's not happening, WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO ENTER MY HOME?” As I said the last part, I rose my voice to just under a yelling volume. It had the intended effect that I was hoping for. I could see my neighbors peeking out of their windows. More importantly the cops noticed it, too.

“Well, sir...” the cop started and continued, “We got a call about your dog barking. When we knocked on the door, nobody answered so we thought somebody inside might be in distress. We made a judgement call and decided to go in and see if anybody inside was in need of assistance, or was incapacitated.”

As my brain was processing what the officer was saying to me, I looked at the other officers. The looks on their face were that of a look of inconvenience. One of the officers looked at me like he flat out loathed me. Yes, loathed. I know that look very well. Then it dawned on me to ask him one more question.

“Do you officers have a warrant for this?” I asked as monotone as possible.

“Don't need one in cases of emergency,” The officer that gave me the loathing look interjected. His diet looked like it consisted of steroids and anger.

“WELL, THIS ALL SEEMS HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS THAT OFFICERS ARE ENTERING MY HOME WITHOUT A WARRANT OVER A BARKING DOG!” At this point, neighbors had opened their doors and stood there to see why their neighbor was raising his voice to law enforcement. The police officers now looked around seemingly very unsure of themselves. The police officer that was holding the flashlight lowered the flashlight and spoke.

“Well, we can see everything is fine. We're gonna get outta here. Boys, let's go.”

With that all the officers started walking to their police cars. As they were walking away, I asked, “Wait a second, what are your badge numbers?” The officers didn't stop walking; Instead, they all started rattling off their badge numbers at the same time. I watched them as they got in their cars, and drove away. I ran over to my wife and gave her a hug and asked her if she was okay. We went inside, and I looked around. Nothing seemed off so I was pretty sure they did not actually get into my residence.

A million thoughts raced through my head as I tried to gather myself. My heart still raced as I tried to formulate my next step. I should call the station, they should have a record of the event. I picked up my phone and dialed the police department's non emergency number.

The officer on the other end did not want to be cooperative in the slightest. He acknowledged that yes, the police had every right to enter my house without a warrant, and stated that I should be thankful that they could.

“I should be thankful?” I asked surprised.

“Sir, what if you were having a heart attack and couldn't get to the phone. You would be pretty happy to see the police, wouldn't you?”

“Are the police trained in rapid response?” I shot back.

“It's not required, no. But they could then call for an ambulance.”

I could see the conversation was going nowhere so I asked the officer on the other end of the phone for the badge numbers of every police officer that was at my home. He gave them to me and I hung up the phone. After the phone call I tried calming down but was still so wound up that I couldn't sleep the entire night, and neither could my wife.

Aftermath – What I Discovered

The next couple days felt like I was in a daze. I had this paranoia feeling, and I couldn't shake it. It was nagging at me that the police tried to enter my home without due process. I came to the conclusion that I should contact a lawyer.

Because I no longer had the student that was a lawyer, I had no idea where to start so I googled “lawyer and police brutality” into the search engine. I called the first number that popped up. I spoke with a secretary and she took my info and said a lawyer from the office would call back shortly. I thanked her and hung up the phone.

The lawyer called back within a couple hours and I explained the events that happened. His response really took me by surprise.

“Do you have video?” He asked.

“No...It all happened rather fast...” I tried to explain before he cut me off.

“Then you don't have a case.” He said very matter of fact. He then clarified, “I mean, you might have a case, but I don't want to take it.”

“Can I ask why? I mean, they tried to enter my home without a warrant over my dogs barking. They claimed it was because they thought someone was in distress. Would you mind explaining it to me?”

“Sure, no problem. So, there are certain situations where a police officer may enter your home without a warrant. One of those situations states that if a police officer believes someone is in a life or death situation, then they may enter the residence.”

“But....” I paused before I continued, “Do you think that's why they were coming into my home? I mean, doesn't it seem odd?”

“It does, and maybe there was another motive for them wanting to enter your house, but that's what you would have to prove in a court of law. They made a judgement call to go into your home because they thought someone's life was in danger. You'd have to prove they were lying. Maybe if you had video footage of them not following protocol, we'd have something there...” He trailed off.

I sat there thinking about possible scenarios that could have happened. “Can I ask a couple more questions if you don't mind?”

“Go ahead.” he replied.

“Could they have harmed my dog and I'd have no recourse.”

“Let me put it this way. It would be your word against four police officers. They could claim that when they entered your residence your dog attacked them and they had to shoot it.”

“Jesus.... One more question. What if they found some marijuana or paraphernalia?”

“Well, that's where it get's a little tricky. If a cop enters your home and sees an illegal substance out in the open, they can make an arrest. Now, because they could use their reason for entering your home they could justify going into each of the rooms of the residence. If they did make an arrest, you could get it thrown out in court, but you'd have to hire a lawyer, etc...” He then paused, “If that did happen, I would be more concerned with civil asset forfeiture.”

“What's civil asset forfeiture?”

“You're going to need to look it up, it would take me too long to explain.”

I thanked the lawyer for his time and hung up the phone. When I researched civil asset forfeiture I was terrified by the results that came back.

What is Civil Asset Forfeiture?

Basically, civil asset forfeiture is the ability of law enforcement to seize a person's property if they suspect that the person's property was used to facilitate an illegal activity.

I want to stress two points about civil asset forfeiture. The first is, law enforcement only needs to suspect, they do not need actual evidence. Please understand that a person's property is not protected by the 4th amendment. There are horror stories of police taking people's property with absolutely no evidence whatsoever.

Remember, law enforcement only has to, suspect that your property is being used in an illegal activity. The word suspect is a very subjective word.

The second point is that a person's property is not protected by the constitution. This means a person's property is considered guilty until proven innocent. That means if law enforcement were to seize your property, it is your responsibility to hire a lawyer and prove that is wasn't used for illegal activity.

Why Should You Care?

A couple years ago, several articles revealed that all of the civil asset forfeiture seized surpassed the dollar value of all theft reported to the government.

Try to remember that this is all legal. If you are wondering what happens to all the seized property, it depends on where you live. Most of the time it gets auctioned off and the money goes back into the police department that seized the property. This is problematic because it creates an incentive for police forces to seize people's property to help fund their police department. Most of the time the property seized costs less than the hassle it would be to hire a lawyer and get it back. Basically, this law is legalized theft.

When I realized what happened in my situation, I started thinking about worse case scenarios. I had left a joint out in my music room at the time. The police, in theory, could have, “looked” throughout my house looking for 'a person in distress' and came across my joint, and subsequently seized my entire home.

What did I do about it?

The first thing I did was get my medical marijuana card. I hated the thought of being on a state list, but the thought of losing my home in some bogus drug raid seemed to be a worse scenario. That situation was a story in and of itself, but I'll save that for another day.

The next thing I did was purchase cameras to cover my property. I was not too thrilled by this. I hate the idea of having surveillance, and to be truthful, I don't really worry about being robbed. That's what insurance is for. Most material things can be replaced, and the things I value a typical burglar wouldn't want anyway. I found it unnerving that I was installing the cameras because it was law enforcement, not burglars, that had tried to enter my home.

Lastly, and most importantly, I CALLED MY STATE REPS! This is by far the one action that makes me feel like I can make the most difference. The laws are just now starting to change. Does it go far enough in my opinion? No, but it's definitely a start.

When people become anti-police they should try to remember that the police are only doing what the law allows them to do.

I'd like to close this with something one of my favorite comedians said about airport security, but can be applied to giving power to any authority:

As far as I’m concerned, all of this airport security, all the searches, the screenings, the cameras, the questions, it’s just one more way of reducing your liberty, and reminding you that they can f**k with you any time they want… as long as you put up with it… as long as you put up with it; which means of course any time they want, 'cause that’s what Americans do now, they’re always willing to trade away a little of their freedom in exchange for the feeling, the illusion, of security.” – George Carlin

Take it easy, but take it.

NickelNDime out!




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