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SWAT Teams Can Now Enter Your Home Without A Warrant Thanks To This Stunning New Court Ruling

Image source: Boston Globe

Image source: Boston Globe

The only pretext a SWAT team needs to temporarily seize your property is to use it as an observation post in an emergency situation, a federal judge in Nevada has ruled.

Police even have the right to smash down your door with a battering ram without a warrant and shoot you with pepper balls in order to take over your property, US District Court Judge Andrew Gordon concluded in a case called Anthony Mitchell v. City of Henderson. Mitchell and his parents sued the city of Henderson, a Las Vegas suburb, because of events on July 10, 2013.

The Mitchells’ attorneys argued the events violated their clients’ First, Third and Fourth Amendment rights. The Third Amendment makes it illegal for the government to seize private homes for use as quarters for soldiers and has rarely been the focus of a federal case. The attorneys contended that the Third Amendment applies to police as well as the military.

Does the Third Amendment Apply to SWAT teams?

Gordon dismissed the case.

“The relevant questions are thus whether municipal police should be considered soldiers, and whether the time they spent in the house could be considered quartering,” he wrote. “To both questions, the answer must be no.”

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Judge Gordon’s description of events as described by Mitchell and his parents, Michael and Linda, makes for some very disturbing reading. None of the Mitchells was suspected of a crime. Instead, police simply wanted to take over their homes to use as observation posts to watch a neighbor who was barricaded inside his house and who was refusing to leave. Police were investigating a domestic complaint against the neighbor.

Without a Warrant

“The officers then knocked down Anthony’s door with a metal ram and entered his house, without a warrant or Anthony’s permission,” Judge Gordon wrote in his opinion. “They pointed their guns at Anthony and ordered him to the floor. The officers, including Officer Snyder, addressed Anthony as ‘a–hole’ and ordered him to crawl toward them and shut his phone off. Anthony stayed huddled on the floor with his hands over his face.”

Mitchell had refused to comply with the SWAT team’s request because he did not like the way the police were behaving.

“Doe Officers 1-10 pointed firearms at the Plaintiffs through their windows and at the homes of several neighbors,” Gordon wrote. “When Michael photographed Doe Officer 1 — a member of the NLVPD SWAT team — through a window of Michael’s home, that officer pointed his firearm at Michael.”

The officers are called Doe because they are not identified in the complaint. NLVPD refers to the North Las Vegas Police Department.

“Doe Officers 1-10 … then shot Anthony with ‘pepperball’ rounds at close range,” Gordon wrote. A pepperball is a non-lethal projectile made from chili pepper that some law enforcement agencies use. “The officers also shot Anthony’s dog Sam, who had been cowering in the corner of the room, with at least one ‘pepperball’ round. Sam panicked, howled in pain, and fled from the house. He ended up trapped in a fenced alcove in the backyard without food or water for nearly the entire day in 100-degree heat.”

Parents’ Home Seized, Too

After taking over Anthony Mitchell’s house, the SWAT team decided to occupy his parents’ home next door as well.

“Approximately 30 minutes later, Doe Officers 21-30 entered the Parents’ backyard, again without a warrant or permission,” Gordon wrote. “The officers knocked on the back door and demanded that Linda open the door. Linda complied, but told them that they could not enter without a warrant. The officers ignored her, entered through the back door, and began searching the home. Doe Officer 21 (a female) forcibly grabbed Linda, began to pull her out of the house, seized her purse and ‘began rummaging through it’ without consent.”

Does the Third Amendment Apply to SWAT teams

Anthony and Michael Mitchell were arrested on charges of obstructing an officer and held in jail for the night. The charges against them were later dropped.

“If the Mitchells’ story is true (the police obviously have their own version of events), it is clear that the officers engaged in illegal and deeply troubling abuses of power against innocent civilians – regardless of whether their actions violated the Third Amendment or not,” George Mason University Law Professor Illya Somin wrote in a Washington Post op-ed piece.

The case has important Constitutional implications because there are few court rulings on the Third Amendment and the protections it provides, Somin wrote. The Third Amendment is rarely invoked because of the protection against unreasonable search and seizure provided by the Fourth Amendment.

Somin believes the Mitchells had a solid legal case.

“When the Amendment was enacted in 1791, there were virtually no professional police of the sort we have today,” Somin wrote. “The distinction between military and law enforcement officials was far less clear than in the world of 2015. Moreover, many parts of the Bill of Rights were in part inspired by abuses committed by British troops attempting to enforce various unpopular laws enacted by Parliament.”

Another complicating factor, Somin wrote, is the militarization of police forces.

“If a state or local government decides to quarter a SWAT team in a private home, it is not clear whether that is meaningfully different from placing a National Guard unit there,” Somin wrote. “In sum, Judge Gordon may well be right that the officers involved in this case are not plausibly considered soldiers under the Third Amendment. But he is too quick to conclude that no “municipal police officer” could ever qualify as such.”

Which side of the dispute was right here? Or did both sides make mistakes? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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30 comments

  1. wonderful just what need orwell was right he got the date wrong that’s all

  2. I am MORE than happy I took my family and left is poor miserable excuse of a country. 30 Years in the Air Force from Vietnam, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. I can tell you with first hand knowledge and experience the America I grew up in is LONG gone.

    We left for greener, safer and a far more free country far away where we home school our 3 children in peace.

    Today I watch from afar as America quickly declines into a complete Totalitarian State where people are more slaves than free.

    • Where did you go? Is there room there for more?

    • How would you know? You experienced 30 years of military bases, not America.

    • so where did you move?

    • I’m not particularly interested in where you’ve moved to and as an Air Force veteran myself (60 combat sorties over Afghanistan), I can empathize with your desire for an America that’s better than the countries you’ve served in. What I’m interested in is hearing about this much-better America that you grew up in. What years did it exist? What year did it stop existing? What caused the end of its existence? Was it a court ruling or a piece of legislation?

      The reason I ask is because I can’t think of another time in our history when the police were under more restrictions than they are today. I know that may be a shock to many of the people who read this blog, but basic stuff like the police being required to inform you of your rights wasn’t a thing until the 1960s. Hell, it wasn’t until the 60s that the Supreme Court ruled that state and local law enforcement agencies were bound by the 4th Amendment. Before that, it only applied to the Feds and police used that loophole all the time to harass blacks and other undesirables.

      So I’m curious, when was this golden age of American freedom that you grew up in?

      • Mahatma Muhjesbude

        Juan, It was the era where we didn’t have so many out of control cops who routinely shot kids who were merely ‘playing guns’, even though their toy guns looked MORE realistic than plastic shit with orange barrels. We didn’t gun down homeless PTSD’d combat vets, and unarmed mentally ill persons just acting out and not immediately instantly obeying a so-called police order, for starters.

        We also didn’t violate every part of the 2nd and 4th amendment privacy rights with everything from Flir to FADD to Backscatter radar Vans, to stingray cell phone towers, to universal licence plate scsnners to know everywhere everyone travels, and cameras virtually EVERYWHERE watching everything you do but catching no significantly more criminals than we did the old ways, and all in the name of ‘Extreme Crime Preventsion’ and the totally specious and fraudulent notion of ‘Public Safety’, when in fact, it’s all designed as a ‘for police profit’ operation so that they can illegally seize your property and cash and certainly your firearms, with their ‘asset forfeiture laws’, even if you’ve done nothing wrong and they don’t arrest you!

        We might not have had as many ‘restrictions’ back then because unlike now, most cops had common sense and respected people…You know, the archaic idea of ‘to serve and protect’?

        I know all this first hand because i was a cop probably for more years than you’ve been alive.

        I can go on if THAT doesnt’ assuage your curiosit?

  3. Georgia is doing something worse – they are about to vote on whether revealing the contents of a search warrant will be a crime…. and whether or not to give complete immunity to cops for any and all crimes committed during the execution of search warrants, foreign law definitions, and more … http://bernardlawoffices.com/2015/03/27/sb94-massive-expansion-of-search-warrant-powers/

    This affects all other states because these types of laws are generally passed in a target test state before being shopped around nation-wide.

  4. Sounds like the citizens of that state need to amend their state constitution to address how far their police can go with regard to personal property, warrants, and police behavior toward citizens who might be in their way.

  5. And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press, or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms; or to raise standing armies, unless necessary for the defense of the United States, or of some one or more of them; or to prevent the people from petitioning, in a peaceable and orderly manner, the federal legislature, for a redress of grievances; or to subject the people to unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, papers or possessions.

    Samuel Adams, Debates of the Massachusetts Convention of 1788

  6. Oh come on, the judge didn’t say the swat team entry was lawful or permissible or that they had the “right” to enter. He only ruled that the Third Amendment to the Constitution didn’t prohibit it.

    The Third Amendment is archaic– it prohibits the quartering of soldiers in your home, and the entry of a swat team does not equate to the quartering of soldiers.

    The case will go to a jury as to whether the swat team’s conduct was a violation of the Mitchells’ right to be free from unreasonable search or seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

    • I hope the swat team is found in violation and offending members are fired.

    • Paul the Heretic

      They set up a base, that’s not quartering? There’s command vehicles for that, the judge basically created a loophole for entry. They take privately owned lamd already, now they can enter our homes, shoot us with nonlethal rounds, and arrest us for being unhappy with their actions?

      Entry is one thing, but getting stationed inside, and taking over??? What if they resisted? Few deaths from what should be an unlawful entry of unrelated innocents, just to observe a barricaded neighbour? How are they justified in doing this?

  7. Paul the Heretic

    Great, so paramilitary units can enter whenever and use this loophole to do what they want? America is starting to go to hell in a handbasket. They already treat anyone they want as criminals because they are the law and we are idiots making their lives harder.

    Been on both sides, inside a cell and on the side of law enforcement, but this has gotten rediculous. Our rights get violated and they’re protected, and we aren’t. They arrest anyoje they want for whatever reason, somehow they’re still the hero.

    Incidents like this make me rethink all the killings going on. With this I don’t know how honest the cops really are, and how much they cover themselves as the only survivors.

    • No, this would only be used as case law within that district, which is the 9th Circuit court of Clowns. It could be used as a persuasive case in other states to get a judge to use it as law, then it would become law there! The 9th circuit court makes decisions that are often overturned by the Suprem court, but txt was in the past and now I think our judicial system tends to lean toward marxist socialism!

  8. The problems within the USA are manifold and of a magnitude that a dozen lengthy books could not convey let alone a message board post. Support Oath Keepers to hopefully curtail the elite-class ruling master tyrant’s law enforcement arm and the military because those elites will use anything to retain command and control over We, the People.

  9. Not a fledgling police state, nope.

    The fact that officers even believed they COULD do that without a prior ruling tells you that LEAs use the Constitution for a doormat.

  10. If I am going to be arrested for obstructing justice, I going to make damn sure I get my tax money out of the system and bitch-slap one of them. I only 5 feet tall, over weight, and have medical issues, but I am sick to death of having to ‘allow’ this for some mistaken idea that the other side thinks it is their right to do it. My Italian great-grandparents came to America because they believed that they would be in a better place to raise children and work. My Nonno worked hard and passed on to his children the “American dream”. I wonder what he would think about that “American dream” now.

  11. Let me approach this matter from another angle. In our country we have a finite number of criminals (no, I’m not referring to our politicians!) that are of the violent offender classification.
    Rather than putting the general public in the middle of the battlefield between law enforcement (police, SWAT or military forces) and violent offenders we should empty our prisons of non violent, tax paying citizens and fill the cells with those who are incapable of living in a free society.
    By doing this we wouldn’t require so many tax dollars being spent managing criminals on this side of iron bars or having your or my home occupied by law enforcement. Nor would we require so many militarized forces which only seem to be growing…

  12. They are not police but terrorist. The National guard needs to protect citizens in the state and drag the swat.. I mean terrorist from there homes and execute them! Their families, wives and children need to be placed on a terrorist watch list.

  13. This is a clear violation of the 3rd amendment. Just because police and swat are not considered soldiers they are still rather militarized. Whether they are actual soldiers or not police are still agents of the government. The 3rd amendment should still apply.

  14. It is clear that we can no longer trust our own government,whether it’s local,state or federal government to protect the right’s of ” We the people”. There was a time when I would gladly open my doors and provide what ever was needed for my government.That time has long passed, an this John Doe is no longer conflicted,that the United States government has the back of John Q public. Many believe, the current occupants of the White House and the House and Senate, are hell bent on destroying our country from the inside out!
    “The government by the people and for the people,” continues to be held hostage by rich individuals and their conglomerations. Have you ever wonder why someone would spend so much money to get elected for a job that would pay under $200,000 dollars-Congressmen and Senators? And let’s say, $450,000 dollars for the Presidency!
    As long as these Yahoo’s can get their $30 pieces of silver they can be bought and the Constitution of these here United States, will end up on the “ash heaps of time”!
    By executive orders, they are stealing your God given right’s. The President is no fool! He knows exactly what he is doing! And as long as we give up our rights by being “silent”, He wins and you loose!
    Surely you can not hate this nation so much, that you’ll allow another “ism” of the 19th century to reach up and grab the last bashton of Freedom by the belt and pull it, into a dark and watery grave, without a fight!
    Protect your rights under The Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Right’s. Prepare to defend yourself by speaking up,loud and clear.Hold those rascals accountable! The history books will hold us all accountable if we fail to defend “Freedom and Liberty” from the tyrants of the 21st. century. Do what your able to do and God will do the rest. Do not sit on your backside and think the other guy will take care of it.To survive we need to outwit,outplay and out last the enemies of America.” Ask not what your country can do for you,Ask what you can do for your country”-President John F. Kennedy 35th President of the United States.
    We can not be forced by the conspiracy of silence provided by the drive thru media or from the slick talking points from political leaders, to be herded into gas chambers,ovens or FEMA camps to bring about “the fundamental changes” that are designed to control the fate of mankind! Or can we! Indeed, these are times that try men’s souls! Take care America and be prepared for what’s to come! SP

  15. So all those tax dollars used to buy and outfit every police agency with mobile command vehicles has been wasted?

  16. LEO’s I know would call these lawless animals “pigs” for rooting into private American properties and homes causing disruption and injury as well as sever mental stress and perhaps lifetime PTSD.

    Just what was done to the dog is criminal alone! In some peoples homes if it were night there’d be dead cops as they broke down the door as a couple 12-gauge semi’s unloaded Hi-Velocity 3″, 1.5oz, slugs. And if they had two African Boerboel’s in house some cops would have had their arms bitten off and guts ripped out by the 200-lb African lion hounds(Google them).

  17. The headline is VERY misleading. The judge found the 3d Amendment did not apply. He didn’t dismiss the case. He only dismissed one part of the case – and it’s a part that probably should not have been in there to begin with – but DID attract a lot of attention (which was probably the purpose). Haven’t heard more on this case – but I suspect it is proceeding and if the plaintiffs get less than a million dollars, I’d be surprised

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