The Harder To Find, The Harder They Fall

One of the great ironies noted over and over is how ignorance, from the perspective of law enforcement, grants far greater latitude to do damage than knowledge.  Whenever someone ponders why the cops don’t exercise restraint, patience, or conduct a thorough investigation before pulling out all the stops, it’s the incentives built into the system.

Matthew Heller found out the hard way.

When Heller returned to his monster truck from a hip hop concert, it was ripped to shreds.  The reason is simple: they didn’t know where to find the pot they claim emitted a strong odor.  When the cops broke in and found nothing, they just kept searching. And searching. Ripping the truck apart because it just had to be there somewhere.

To their credit, at least the police didn’t leave Heller to think that the damage was done by common thieves or vandals.

“There’s a little note left on a 2×3 piece of paper,” said Heller.

The note read “Sir, your car was checked by TPD K-9. The vehicle was searched for marijuana due to a strong odor coming from the passenger side of the vehicle.  Any questions call Cpl Fanning.”

Of course, the police didn’t have to conceal their destruction of Heller’s truck because they were entitled to destroy. After all, there was a truck, a smell and ignorance.

While TPD claims the search was legal, attorney Bryant Camareno doesn’t agree.

“It’s an illegal search,” Camareno said.  “Usually if it’s some kind of unoccupied vehicle there has to be some level of exigent circumstance to justify searching a vehicle without a search warrant. Exigent could mean if there is a dead body inside, if there is a screaming child locked in the car, a dog but if the car is unoccupied there is no exigency to justify the search.”

Somebody has the better end of the argument, and it’s not the TPD.  But in fairness, it’s hard to imagine that the TPD, based upon the claimed dog hit, wouldn’t have gotten a warrant to search the truck had they bothered.  And then they would have destroyed it searching for the non-existent marijuana that emitted such a strong odor.

Heller, who clearly needs better investment advice, will now suffer the loss of his truck and the fight to collect damages to repair it.  Some might suspect that the police could conduct a search with greater care so that less damage is done, but that would presume they are concerned about the damage they cause to some druggie’s truck.  Of course, they don’t know he’s not a druggie until afterwards. Oops. Sorry, guy.

Others would suspect they do as much damage as possible, perhaps even more damage than necessary, just because they can.  After all, how would they know where the pot was hidden?  It could be anywhere. Absolutely anywhere.

H/T Radley Balko


6 thoughts on “The Harder To Find, The Harder They Fall

  1. Marc R

    Not only are they allowed to search without any regard for the property, but it’s fun breaking stuff! How many clients complain the police destroyed their homes; smashing dry wall, throwing over china cabinets, breaking open tvs and stereos, knocking interior doors of the hinges, etc! I remember once a detective asking “am I supposed the call the manufacturer and get instructions for dissembling every single item? in response to a question about how the inside of ceramic dishes could conceivably contain the stolen property they were alleging searching.

    Sometimes the judge will admonish the police…though in the incident you linked the guy won’t go to court since he was actually innocent. Is there any remedy for this? Maybe because the police had no warrant or exigent circumstances? Though this won’t help in the cases where there are warrants and the destruction is clearly frustration at not fining what they think is there. Good thing he didn’t have a small dog inside his truck!

    1. SHG Post author

      You’ve got to break a few eggs to make an omelet. And breaking eggs is just so much more satisfying.

      My personal favorite is when they pry a fender off a car to search for a trap after the driver gave permission to let them “just look around” inside the car.

  2. Thomas R. Griffith

    Sir, had the “T” been an “H” and the truck been a Hoopty or a primed 68 classic aka: “suspicious vehicle” , they’d found what they were smelling for in the secrete drop-stash compartment in the squad car’s trunk (near the left tail light). The bastard has know idea how lucky he actually is.

    All that white-boy bling & devoid of an interactive security system (even one that just blows airhorns) must be a Tampa thang, where the taxpayers are used to picking up the tab of bad cops like it’s simply bidness as usual.

    *The K-9 should be retired or retrained and the cop with the bad sense of smell should see a doctor after he get’s his job back but that’s a bunch of shoulda in a state full of it. Leaving a note written in crayon was a nice touch that shows the K-9 has potential to write a book about it. Thanks.

  3. George B

    ~2 decades back, I sat in at a meeting at Main Justice re: the WOSD. [Why I was there is a separate saga..] It was headed by a PhD appointed by the WH. The fearless Customs boys had some new electronic sniffer toy, and allegedly got a hit on some million$+ fiberglass cruise boat that came back from Bermuda, I think it was.

    They reported they drilled holes all day looking for where the goods were hidden, then gave up and decided the gadget wasn’t working so well.

    The boat afterwards… that was the owner’s problem, not theirs, they shrugged.

  4. John Barleycorn

    Horn Blasters?

    Major bummer for Mathew and his business.

    Well hopefully he installs the full monty freight train horn with an air tank of sufficient capacity rigged into his security system on a delay so as the next time his modest truck is searched the PoLiCe leave some DNA evidence behind during their criminal activities.

    That unsigned note was rather weak IMHO.

    Ironic you posted this post today. Are you and that guy from Nashville fans of that hockey team from NeW yOrK that needs no air horns or were you just pondering using an airhorn to dust off the fringe on “that jacket” of yours to pre-celebrate the sweep?

    I hope most of your more educated readers realize that the bigger the air tank the higher they jump and the higher they jump the more likely they are to leave irrefutable evidence behind.

    Specs available upon request, not legal in most states.

    P.S. “Druggie”? Really… Do the children these days still use that word?

    1. SHG Post author

      I found the absence of a security system with a really loud airhorn a problem as well, but then I’m not in the market for an airhorn.

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