posted on Nov, 4 2015 @ 12:47 AM
A quick perusal of this "caretaking" thing leads me to believe they are in the wrong.
Apparently, there is yet *another* exception to having to have a warrant to enter a home or vehicle. Along with exigence, imminent destruction of
evidence, hot pursuit, and a warrant, you now can enter a citizen's home or vehicle "to help them".
Originally, the intent was to allow cops into vehicles at accident scenes, or homes where there was a reasonable suspicion that you were dead or
incapacitated. So far so good.
But then came "Cady v Dombrowski", the sort of # you just can't make up. Apparently there was a cop in a rental car who had a wreck, and was
hospitalized, unconscious. Knowing there was no firearm found on the guy, they went to the impound and looked through the car to secure it. This is
now known as an "inventory-type search", in that they were trying to "inventory" his service weapon.
They found a dead body in the trunk.
The cop had murdered someone, and got in a wreck whilst fleeing to dispose of the body. After a few yeswecan-noyoucants over the evidence, it was
determined that as the cops were doing a 'public service safety' entry into the car looking for a sidearm, it was fair to use any evidence they
accidentally found oozing out the trunk.
And that's where this started. Eventually, it began oozing into other situations. Yes, if they claim "you look like you need help", they can break,
enter and search your car, instead of just dragging you out and bludgeoning you to death as they so often do for emergency medical care for strokes
and diabetic shock.
Now, the "caretaker inventory" function is, as far as I can tell, limited to situations wherein you are found down in the car and removed, in which
the cops can then collect your goods for you. Sounds ok. Or, if your car is impounded, they can inventory your car contents and remove them for
safekeeping to keep them from being stolen in impound (ironically, the point was made for this one that it 'keeps the leos from being accused of
impounding cars to steal the contents').
But nowhere have I found precedent saying it's ok to break and enter a properly parked car and steal the contents when no incapacitation of the driver
is present, no accident has occurred, and the cops have not been placed in nominal possession of the vehicle in some way (guarding or impounding it).
In fact, the entire 'caretaker' thing is apparently really shaky legally outside of very blatantly obviously caretaking sort of circumstances like
Aunt Mabel with the heart problem who dropped the phone mid convo with an "aargh".
It would be nice if the ACLU put a nice bait car for the cops out, and either caught them red-handed stealing something and not "inventorying it",
like a nice Mac or iPod, or used it to cause a decisive precedent to be set at the expense of the local PD.
This is the sort of thing that doesn't sit well with the electorate, and in a time where police are looking like buttholes, it's probably not a great
community team-builder to start rifling people's cars "to help them" by making it really irritating to get your stuff back. What's next, you start
walking into my house, shooting my dog and stealing the TV because I went next door and left the door open?