Imagine it’s winter time. You’re at home in Erie, Pennsylvania. There’s snow everywhere. Your Ring Doorbell alerts you to movement at your front door. It’s a SWAT team. They grab your doorbell camera and chuck it into the snow and then start to bust down your door. You’ve done nothing wrong. You’ve broken no law. You have no idea why they’re there. And neither do they apparently. What do you do? What is the law?
It was March 12, 2023.Officers approach the house and notice the Ring doorbell and then they remove or destroy it. The homeowner got to the front door and confronted the officers. They told him to come outside, which he did.
Sadly, Lance, who submitted the footage, has early onset dementia. He explained this to the officers. He decided to take out his cell phone and begin filming their interaction – for his safety and theirs, of course. That’s when Lance’s cell phone footage begins. The cops absolutely did not want to be filmed, even though they were on Lance’s property, without a search warrant and without probable cause, or even reasonable suspicion, to believe that Lance had committed any crime at all.
Searches and seizures which take place in a person’s home are presumptively unreasonable, which means they are illegal by default according to the Fourth Amendment. The only exceptions are consent and exigent circumstances. Here, the officers had no search warrant for this house. It also appears that they had no legitimate reason to believe that the fugitive they were looking for was inside the house.
According to their own words, they received an anonymous tip that the fugitive could be inside the home. In reality, the fugitive had no connection whatsoever to the home. Anonymous tips cannot form the basis of probable cause. Which is why they didn’t have a warrant. They should have investigated the anonymous tip, in which case the officers would have discovered that it was not credible. Instead, they just got the boys together, rolled up on the house, destroyed private property and then commenced an illegal search.
While the homeowner gave the officers consent to go inside the house, he subsequently revoked that consent after finding out that the officers were acting off a bogus anonymous tip. Moreover, they had already invaded the curtilage of the home and destroyed private property prior to obtaining that consent. They had no legal justification to do so and therein violated the Fourth Amendment.
Lance is looking to file a lawsuit, if any Pennsylvania lawyers are interested in helping him.
UPDATE: Since I made the video on this, Lance found out that the officers had first applied for a search warrant, based on the anonymous tip. That warrant was apparently denied by a judge as lacking probable cause. Then the officers showed up anyways. In the end, they were apparently at the wrong house. Not surprisingly…. Lance’s home had no connection to the fugitive they were looking for.