May 23, 2007


Rights not violated in home search, justices rule: A Southern California couple had been rousted from bed and held naked at gunpoint by deputies. (David G. Savage, May 22, 2007, LA Times)

Mistakes sometimes happen when police conduct home searches, the Supreme Court said Monday in throwing out a lawsuit brought by a white couple in Southern California who were rousted from bed and held naked at gunpoint by deputies looking for several black suspects.

The search of Max Rettele and his girlfriend, Judy Sadler, in their bedroom may have been an error, and it was certainly embarrassing to them, the justices said. But it did not violate their rights under the 4th Amendment, which protects against "unreasonable searches and seizures," they added.

Police obtain search warrants based on probable evidence, not "absolute certainty," the court said in an unsigned opinion. "Valid warrants will issue to search the innocent, and people like Rettele and Sadler unfortunately bear the cost."

It's a beautiful thing the way our messianism, which precludes the belief in perfect government, is considered to make us unrealistic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 23, 2007 7:29 AM

"Valid warrants will issue to search the innocent, and people like Rettele and Sadler unfortunately bear the cost."

Unfortunately, sometimes they shoot the homeowners, like when the police in Atlanta shot 92 year old Kathryn Johnston. Of course most cops then don't plant dope to try to cover up their mistake, but hey sh*t happens.

I am all for arresting criminals, but in the case cited in the above, the cops were looking for two black suspects accused of idenity theft. Now I am not sure how dangerous criminals are who commit identity theft, but I am pretty sure that you don't need a SWAT team to root them out.

The increasing militarization of our police departments is disturbing, hence when they refer to no LEOs as "civilians". One would do well to remind them that they are civilians and not members of the military.

As for my house, if you break in, armed in the middle of the night, you had better shout "Police!!" very loudly 'cause I have long term hearing damage from firing 7.62 X 39 rounds from 30 round magazines.

Posted by: Jeff at May 23, 2007 8:18 AM

As I understand the facts, this was not a "no knock" raid but a routine (but early morning) search under a vaild search warrent. The police announced themselves and knocked on the door. They were let in by a 17 year old.

This is mainly a routine slap down of the 9th Circuit (Judge Reinhardt in particular) by the Supreme Court.

When this was posted on the well known Volokh legal web site, the liberals were appalled that the weren't compensated. One woman compared the search to a sexual assault.

Posted by: Bob at May 23, 2007 10:24 AM

Lesson One: if you're innocent, don't pull a gun on the cops.

Posted by: oj at May 23, 2007 10:53 AM

"Lesson One: if you're innocent, don't pull a gun on the cops."

Lesson Two: if I am innocent and going about my business in my home (sleeping) and you come into my house without being invited armed to the teeth more than likely you will be met with gunfire. I shouldn't have to gamble with my life deciding in a matter of seconds whether you are the real police. 'Cause criminals would never invade your house claiming falsely to be the police would they?

Some say let the courts decide....I agree if the cops suspect me of doing wrong, they are free to get a warrant. You buy your ticket, you take your chances. If in fact I am innocent of suspected hanky-panky then any charges stemming from defending my home should be ruled justifiable. Otherwise, throw the book at me. End of story. Cops don't get a free pass.

Try reading some of these accounts and tell me why they should:

Posted by: Jeff at May 23, 2007 11:22 AM

I'm with Jeff. Anyone breaks into my house when I'm asleep claiming to be the police, I'm shooting to kill and am probably better armed and certanly a better shooter than the cops around here. Cops DON'T get a free pass and anyone who's ever been abused by stupid cops knows how badly things can unravel despite the fact that one is cooperating. That police department deserves to get sued to hell and back. Incompetence. Gross negligence. I'd have shot them all dead just for scaring my girlfriend. And gone back to sleep.

Posted by: Jack at May 23, 2007 12:36 PM

No sweat, just don't expect normal people to mind if they shoot you. My money's on the cops.

Posted by: oj at May 23, 2007 1:21 PM

Jeff and Jack: My advice is get pre-paid burial plans and make sure you pay your life insurance premiums.

I don't care how well you shoot and what guns you have, the police will be more numerous and will keep coming until you are dead.

Posted by: Bob at May 23, 2007 2:03 PM

The plaintiffs had no state cause of action because of their state's doctrine of sovereigh immunity, so they were going the Section 1983 route and it didn't fly--not too much to see here.

There was a trespass Q.C.F., there was a assault of some sort, possibly a battery, but it wasn't actionable. What the SCt. is saying is that there was not a 4th Amendment violation actionable under the Civil Rights Act.

Back when I was doing this, there would have been freshness issues with the search warrant, as I read it, but that stuff has eroded so much over the years that the piggies get away with just about anything in a SW affidavit.

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 23, 2007 7:46 PM

"No sweat, just don't expect normal people to mind if they shoot you. My money's on the cops."

Ask the ATF how well that Waco job worked out,or for that matter ask the FBI how well Ruby Ridge went until they had the military bail them out.

If the cops have blanket civil/criminal immunity in these "no knock raids" then there is no incentive for them to behave now is there?

Your rights keep frittering away and as long as you behave like the docile sheep you are I guess you can be happy. Just don't expect everyone else to bahh along with you.

Posted by: Jeff at May 24, 2007 9:10 AM

The whackos ended up dead, no?

No one but libertarian loons and actual criminals fear the police.

Posted by: oj at May 24, 2007 11:35 AM