Unreasonable Search at an Unmarked “Crime Scene”
The following was submitted by Fred Ome via CopBlock.org’s ‘submit‘ tab.
I was walking down a side street near my house around 3:45AM when I noticed a man walking his dog and three cars parked haphazardly a few hundred feet behind him, headlights on. I stress ONLY headlights because at that point the roof racks weren’t clearly visible from my point of few. Out of habit when walking alone and approaching someone on a poorly lit street, I pulled my phone out and started the video camera. I stepped off the curb to give the man and his dog room.
As I passed him, I noticed a K-9 vest on the dog and State Police markings on the man’s coat. He offered a cordial, “How’s it going?” to which I replied, “As much as I love dogs, I don’t think I’d want to get in his way.” He told me to have a good night, making no mention of a “crime scene” or to avoid the vehicles at the end of the street, the markings of which were still unclear.
As I approached the vehicles, I noticed 4-6 uniformed officers standing on the opposite side of the road and then noticed the roof lights. However, not wanting to appear threatening or suspicious by turning around on eye contact, I proceeded to walk on the opposite side of the road at a steady, even pace with my hands out of my pockets without visually or verbally acknowledging the officers. As I passed, an officer turned around and yelled, “Come here!” As we hadn’t even made eye contact, I turned my head towards him as I continued walking. As I saw him, he was already only 5-10 feet away, still approaching. He asked me for ID, I said, “I don’t have to carry ID.”
“Yes, you do.”
He got next to me and held my arm, not aggressively but with authority, (just word play there, that’s not to imply consent). He brought me to the car and put my hands on the hood.
I clearly and calmly repeated that I did not consent to being searched.
I was searched regardless.
He claimed I “fit the description” of a suspicious person reported.
He asked if I knew the guy in custody who was seated on the sidewalk behind a patrol car; until the officer brought me to the car, he was blocked from view.
The pat-down lasted about 90 seconds and was thorough but not too invasive, (aside from him dumping out my last cigarette, which I didn’t notice until I got home).
When I was told I was free to go, I asked for names and badge numbers. All but one of the officers walked away and the remaining officer introduced himself as Sargent John W. Lewis but would not provide a badge number. He claimed that I had entered a crime scene and that was enough to search without consent. The only problems I have with that are: 1. There were no barricades/tape/chalk/paint lines indicating a crime scene. 2. The three cruisers at the scene had only headlights on, no emergency lights. 3. No officer asked me to maintain a perimeter or instructed me as to any area off limits. 4. Until the officer approached me, took my arm, and guided me to the patrol car, I was on the opposite side of the road from them and their focus of attention.
Because of the alleged crime scene, I’m not sure who is in the right. I feel like that search was unlawful, but I can’t find any information of regulations regarding establishing a crime scene. I would post the video, but I’m unsure of how/what wiretapping laws would be concerned. I was walking down the street and the officer approached me. My device had already been recording over a minute. I know at some point I said I was recording, but the officers kept talking over me and some dialogue is inaudible.
I’m very grateful for all the resources on this site. If there’s anyone with a comment or some non-legal advice, I would greatly appreciate that too. Just to be clear, Sgt. Lewis was not the officer that conducted the search. He did however claim the authority to initiate that search and he did withhold the identification of his subordinates.
- Fred Ome