There is probably no place in the country where the Castle Doctrine, the rule of law that allows a homeowner to take the life of a person who breaks into his home, with numerous local variations on the theme, more seriously than Texas. Indeed, Texans seem to be of the belief that it applies to any variation on the theme, from someone else’s home to burglars outside the house, running away so they’re shot in the back.
The motto of the Republic of Texas is “they needed killin’,” which makes what happened to Jennifer Limon in Harris County all the more inexplicable.
You can hear the deputies asking the women to identify themselves, but the women refuse to comply and demand a search warrant. Then, the video shows the deputies arresting Limon.
She was charged for failing to identify herself to a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest.
Limon was in her own home. The deputies knocked on the door and she answered it. Some might question the wisdom of opening the door to police, but that’s not dispositive. By opening the door, she didn’t “open the door” to being questioned. The threshold is a magic line in the law, a line that the police cannot cross except in very exceptional circumstances, unless they have a warrant. These deputies had no warrant.
The deputies were there to investigate, which is a perfectly fine thing for deputies to do.
Authorities said deputies came to the apartment as part of a follow-up investigation into the robberies, and added that the suspect’s stolen vehicle had been witnessed parked near Limon’s home earlier in the week.
Nothing there that offers any direct connection between the Limon’s home and the subject of the investigation, but that’s not the issue either. The issue arose when Limon refused to identify herself upon demand (or request, if one prefers police jargon and isn’t a slave to definitions).
A spokesperson from the constable’s office said deputies didn’t need a search warrant because the women failed to give their names.
“That’s a violation of the law,” said Sgt. J.C. Mosier. “You have to identify yourself to a police officer. At that point, the officers entered.”
While this explanation may strike some as being superficially reasonable, Sgt. Mosier’s statement is sheer, utter legal insanity, enough so that it could go in the Hall of Fame For Stupid Shit Cops Say. No, you do not have to identify yourself to a police officer absent reasonable suspicion that you had, are or are going to commit a crime. Other than that, you have the right to decline and be left alone. Even in Houston.
And she had the forethought to have her cellphone video camera running, which sadly won’t embed and isn’t available on Youtube. While recording the incident usually serves to give rise to excuses and denials, the Harris County Precinct 1 Constable’s Office doesn’t seem the least bit troubled by this conduct having been videoed, and apparently maintain that this was perfectly lawful conduct.
While watching this video, and in light of past commentary from Texans, the thought that went through my head was what would have happened had this not been Jennifer Limon, who obviously wasn’t particularly militant about the Castle Doctrine, but instead been a fellow with a gun inside his home. The potential for an explosive situation was huge, and it’s impossible to say how many dead bodies would have littered the threshold of that home.
The police perspective is somewhat self-evident: they get to do whatever they feel entitled to do, and the citizen should comply now and complain later, provided he’s still alive to do so. So what if they make a mistake of law, such as entering a home because the homeowner, for whom no suspicion exists, refuses to identify themselves upon command? Want to live? Comply.
To the police, it’s simple math. Do as they tell you and survive.
This solution does little to protect the sanctity of the home, the constitutional rights of its occupants or the sense of unfettered entitlement to command the citizens for whom their position purportedly exists to bend to their will. Compliance may be the safest route, though not necessarily, but it leads directly to the road to perdition.
Chances are the deputies involved will be told by their supervisors to try their best not to embarrass the office again, and then given a medal for their bravery. Limon will complain, which will then be investigated for the rest of her natural life until a determination is made that nothing happened here. Maybe she’ll file suit and have it dismissed pre-answer on immunity grounds, or maybe it will settle for enough money to buy Slurpees for the whole family.
Not until the cops try this nonsense again with a guy with a gun and an attitude, and a few dead bodies litter the threshold, will the wrongfulness be taken seriously. And one of the dead bodies will almost certainly be the homeowner, who will be absolutely right to protect his Castle. And very dead.