“I said turn it off.”
“Do you have a warrant?”
As two San Bernardino County sheriff deputies attempted to search a man’s house in the middle of the night, the officers’ first order was for the man of the house to turn off his cell phone which was recording the situation.
The deputies claimed to be looking for a “wanted felon” – a man who reportedly struck his girlfriend – and were told that the man in the video may be harboring him. However, upon knocking on the man’s door looking for the fugitive, the deputies first course of action was to demand that the man whose door they were knocking on stop recording.
After the man refused the deputy’s initial order to stop recording, one of the deputies again stated, “Turn that off, I don’t know what that is,” insinuating that he was in fear for his life.
Deputies then demanded the man’s name and identification, which the man refused to give. Cops cannot demand identification with force of law unless they have reasonable suspicion that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed. Here, the deputies attempted to argue that the man at home may have been the suspect in question – an argument which the deputies apparently knew was unfounded, as they quickly dropped it – and that the man at home may be guilty of “harboring a fugitive,” another premise which was completely unfounded, as a fugitive is a person for whom a warrant has been issued, not merely a suspect.
The deputies also repeatedly asked to search the man’s home, to which the man rightly demanded to see a search warrant. Without exigent circumstances such as chasing a suspect from the scene of the crime, the deputies had no legal right to search the man’s home without a search warrant.
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When the man asserted his rights and refused to provide ID or allow the deputies to search his home, one of them said, “I’m gonna drag you out,” before realizing he was being recorded and stopping himself. The man then truthfully stated that he was in fear for his life, using the same line cops often use to get away with murder.
For PINAC readers who encounter a similar circumstance, it may be safer to speak with the cops without opening the door.