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Unreasonable searches and seizures and the "expectation of privacy"


Bill Angel
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There is I think an interesting issue concerning what constitutes an "unresonable search and seizure". If warrants are issued based upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, what should be the result if the basis for the search, the "oath or affirmation" is a lie? Some years ago while I was driving I was pulled over by the police who requested to see my license and registration. To make trouble for me someone (I have a pretty good idea of who it was) had reported to the police that my car had been stolen, hence the police believed that I was the driver of a stolen automobile. The police had "invaded my privacy" by pulling me over and requesting identification from me based on perjured testimony.


So what recourse should someone have if a malicious individual files a false report with the police claiming that you are a terrorist bomber, and the police then search your home, car, and internet activity looking for some evidence? Should that malicious individual be charged with perjury, even if no charges are brought against you based on this individual's malicious police report?


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Filing a false police report is against the law and so is lying to the police, so somewhere in there I think that the person giving a false tip is breaking the law and could (and should) be arrested. However, up until they confirmed you owned the car, I think they had probable cause to pull you over, and if they have probable cause they can ask you for ID.

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what should be the result if the basis for the search, the "oath or affirmation" is a lie?

 

There may be a difference between US and UK law but there is a bit of a chicken and egg situation here.

 

If an individual suffers harm as a result of the malicious or negligent actions of another he can seek legal redress from that person.

If the harm is as a result of incitement by a third party, This party may also be liable for redress.

In this case the liability of the 'middle party' then becomes a question of should the person or organisation directly causing the harm known better, ie what checks should they have carried out before acting and did they carry these out with due diligence?

 

The chicken and egg is that the injured party has to suffer and show actual harm, before he can seek redress.

He can also seek a restraining order if he can show good cause to believe he is under threat of harm.

Edited by studiot
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"To make trouble for me someone (I have a pretty good idea of who it was) had reported to the police that my car had been stolen..."

 

Going forward you should be careful to not make aquaintences upset with you. What did you do to this person to make them call the cops? I don't believe they did that for nothing.

Edited by Airbrush
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"To make trouble for me someone (I have a pretty good idea of who it was) had reported to the police that my car had been stolen..."

 

Going forward you should be careful to not make aquaintences upset with you. What did you do to this person to make them call the cops? I don't believe they did that for nothing.

I was in graduate school at the time, as was he. I chose to work with someone else, rather than with him, to prepare to take a PhD qualifying exam in Physics. So I assume that he resented that. I did pass the exam, in spite of his interference. :)
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"To make trouble for me someone (I have a pretty good idea of who it was) had reported to the police that my car had been stolen..."

 

Going forward you should be careful to not make aquaintences upset with you. What did you do to this person to make them call the cops? I don't believe they did that for nothing.

That works if the guy is rational.

He's a guy who thought it was a good idea to lie to the cops.

 

I wonder if a better approach would be to say to the officer that you understand he's just doing his job and that he might be talking to "Joe Bloggs" about wasting police time later.

If the officer knows that the original call came in from "Joe Bloggs" then he might look into it.

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Just to add a slight curve-ball to the equation - what if the false police report is made in good faith, but is based on flawed conclusions of what the person thinks they saw?

 

You can see a wealthy white couple arguing in English outside a fancy restaurant, and then witness the same conversation verbatim (but in an unfamiliar language) between a poor black or Hispanic couple and draw entirely different conclusions as to what was observed.

 

It doesn't even require the observer to be racist - if they observe unfamiliar people and cannot identify the familiar social clues that they are used to looking for, the end result is a much more suspicious and critical encounter.

 

 

I really feel the key to this issue is how "tips" are handled and integrated into the information police use to do their jobs. Tips that result in suspicion may warrant investigation, but require the officer to keep an open mind and treat the individual they pull over as "innocent until proven guilty" while ensuring the matter is resolved accurately and with as little disruption to everyone involved.

 

While it doesn't prevent the damage a person suffers due to unwarranted investigation (when the just cause ultimately proves false) a simple basic respect for the social contract among both parties (officer and person of interest) goes a long way to mitigating most of the harm endured. Likewise, it can reduce the number of occurrences where harm is sue-worthy by simply treating the subject as a person, instead of assuming they are just a crime in progress.

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"Just to add a slight curve-ball to the equation - what if the false police report is made in good faith"

Then they can explain to the police that that's what happened.

I agree, but I want to point out that a citizen has to be able to report something they find dangerous, regardless of whether they are correct. My concern is saying "You can but you will be sued if your wrong!" will only scare more conscientious people into feeling unqualified to report anything at all.

 

Likewise gross negligence that results in harm should always be persuadable for the victim - but we can't use a legal flowchart to find the answers when the only solution I see (correct me if I'm wrong) is a higher accountability between officers and citizens to ensure mutual respect and proper adherence to our rights under the social contract. This means proper listening and checking presumptions so amicable resolutions have a real chance of occurring where they are possible.

 

I'm basing this on the presumption that most "bad experiences" that lead to lawsuits for bad search & seizure practices are generally the result of the authority figures making assumptions about the guilt of the other party. When an officer treats you as a person of some interest that they have to talk to but are respectful of your time, person and presumed innocence - things usually go respectfully well.

When authority figures jump the gun and treat a suspect as a guilty party (in body language, words and tone) for actions they did not even personally witness everyone is guaranteed to be upset enough that any false allegation will be grounds for a lawsuit.

 

Yet - the person making the allegation has no control over how the officer handles the investigation... so they could get sued because an officer is bad at their job even if they passed on information in good faith.

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