Santa Rosa County deputies entered private property without warrants

Santa Rosa County, Florida

According to a statement on the Santa Rosa Sheriff’s Office (SRSO) Facebook page, deputies recently conducted random warrantless entries into citizens’ private property (read the full statement below).

Deputies entered people’s vehicles without a warrant. According to the SRSO statement, deputies walked through “various subdivisions” and “did open some citizen’s car doors when they determined that the cars were unlocked. The officers then placed a card inside the unlocked vehicle in conjunction with the “Hide Lock Take” program, advising the car owner that the deputy had discovered the car unlocked.”

The SRSO’s statement defended the warrantless entries, saying it was a “valuable program” that was “endorsed by Sheriff Hall.” It called the warrantless entries “proactive policing and enforcement.” It also says that “these Deputies are to be commended for going the extra mile in service to our citizens.”

Some citizens had no problem with the warrantless entries, saying things like:

  • “They were trying to help. Get over yourselves. You’d be the first to complain if someone broke into your car.
  • “It’s outrageous that people would complain. My family appreciates your service!”
  • I applaud the officers going above and beyond.
  • “If you have a problem with this, you must be anti-law enforcement!”

and of course:

  • “If you don’t have anything to hide, you don’t have anything to worry about.”

However, some citizens were not pleased with the warrantless entries into their private property. One citizen commented, “Why stop at cars? Why not allow them to perform random searches of your house?” The SRSO statement confirmed the complaints, “Recently some citizens have called or contacted the Office of the Sheriff to express that they were offended or otherwise not pleased with the actions of our Deputies in opening their car door to place a “Hide Lock Take” card into their vehicle. To those citizens, we humbly apologize and our Deputies will no longer open any car doors when performing their duty in conjunction with this valuable program…While the act of opening a car door to place an educational card into an unlocked vehicle will no longer continue, our efforts to educate and protect you will not stop. These Deputies are to be commended for going the extra mile in service to our citizens.”

For the record, the U.S. Constitution still prohibits warrantless searches, as does the Florida Constitution.

U.S. Constitution, Amendment IV: Searches and Seizures – “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Florida Constitution – Article 1, Section 12: “Searches and seizures.—The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, and against the unreasonable interception of private communications by any means, shall not be violated. No warrant shall be issued except upon probable cause, supported by affidavit, particularly describing the place or places to be searched, the person or persons, thing or things to be seized, the communication to be intercepted, and the nature of evidence to be obtained. This right shall be construed in conformity with the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court. Articles or information obtained in violation of this right shall not be admissible in evidence if such articles or information would be inadmissible under decisions of the United States Supreme Court construing the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution. History.—Am. H.J.R. 31-H, 1982; adopted 1982.”

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
~Benjamin Franklin.

The Santa Rosa Sheriff’s Office post titled “Hide-Lock-Take Program issue” states:

In an effort to prevent and deter crime in the Navarre area some of our Deputy Sheriffs took a proactive stance and took the initiative to get out of their patrol cars and walk the neighborhoods on “foot patrol”. This occurred in various subdivisions and other areas where crimes such as car burglaries tend to occur.

 These Deputies did so in an effort to protect and serve the citizens of this county. The Deputies, in some cases, did open some citizen’s car doors when they determined that the cars were unlocked. The officers then placed a card inside the unlocked vehicle in conjunction with the “Hide Lock Take” program, advising the car owner that the deputy had discovered the car unlocked. The Deputy before doing so wrote his agency identification number on the card.

 This program is a valuable one, endorsed by Sheriff Hall and many other community minded citizens throughout the country. The program is aimed at educating the community to take the initiative to prevent crime by doing simple things such as hiding valuables from public view, locking your cars and taking your keys with you to prevent crimes of opportunity in our neighborhoods and businesses.

 Recently some citizens have called or contacted the Office of the Sheriff to express that they were offended or otherwise not pleased with the actions of our Deputies in opening their car door to place a “Hide Lock Take” card into their vehicle. To those citizens, we humbly apologize and our Deputies will no longer open any car doors when performing their duty in conjunction with this valuable program.

 Last year there were over 300 car burglaries reported in Santa Rosa County. Of those 77 were in the Navarre area alone. Of the 77 reported (many more go unreported) car burglaries in Navarre 69 were to unlocked vehicles. Only 8 involved forced entry into the vehicle. Thanks, in part, to the efforts of our Deputies, this year, so far, there have only been 28 car burglaries reported in the Navarre area. Of those 10 were forced entries and most of those occurred in public parking lots not in residential neighborhoods.

 Our Deputies make every effort to go above and beyond in protecting and serving our community and citizens. The Sheriff and his staff will make every effort to continue doing so through proactive policing and enforcement efforts. While the act of opening a car door to place an educational card into an unlocked vehicle will no longer continue, our efforts to educate and protect you will not stop. These Deputies are to be commended for going the extra mile in service to our citizens.

 We cannot solve these types of crime on our own. We need to continue working closely with our community. Please do your part by locking your vehicles as our County is known for having these type of occurrences.

Related:

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 241 – Conspiracy Against Rights  – This statute makes it unlawful for two or more persons to conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person of any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the United States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same). It further makes it unlawful for two or more persons to go in disguise on the highway or on the premises of another with the intent to prevent or hinder his/her free exercise or enjoyment of any rights so secured. Punishment varies from a fine or imprisonment of up to ten years, or both; and if death results, or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years, or for life, or may be sentenced to death.”

Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242 – Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law – “This statute makes it a crime for any person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom to willfully deprive or cause to be deprived from any person those rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the U.S. This law further prohibits a person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation or custom to willfully subject or cause to be subjected any person to different punishments, pains, or penalties, than those prescribed for punishment of citizens on account of such person being an alien or by reason of his/her color or race. Acts under “color of any law” include acts not only done by federal, state, or local officials within the bounds or limits of their lawful authority, but also acts done without and beyond the bounds of their lawful authority; provided that, in order for unlawful acts of any official to be done under “color of any law,” the unlawful acts must be done while such official is purporting or pretending to act in the performance of his/her official duties. This definition includes, in addition to law enforcement officials, individuals such as Mayors, Council persons, Judges, Nursing Home Proprietors, Security Guards, etc., persons who are bound by laws, statutes ordinances, or customs. Punishment varies from a fine or imprisonment of up to one year, or both, and if bodily injury results or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire shall be fined or imprisoned up to ten years or both, and if death results, or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.”

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