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