A sheriff's deputy just came round

I was painting registrations numbers on the zodiac last week, but it was a bit late in the day. Dew fell on the specially-designed-for-inflatables paint overnight and caused it to run. Today I went to clean the mess up with some rubbing alcohol. It was then that I noticed a missing window in the house next door.

The house was owned by an old guy who died about a year and a half ago, before I moved in. His relatives are making more use of the house than he ever did, but they’re only there on the occasional weekend during the summer. I don’t generate much trash, and on trash day I’m usually in a hurry. When I take the boat out, I’m in a hurry to get on the water. I just don’t spend a lot of time on that side of the driveway, nor looking at the house next door. I have no idea how long the window had been open.

I called the sheriff’s department and told them about it. I called back about ten minutes later to tell them that the window was not missing, but was just slid open. It slides to the side, and from my original vantage point I did not see the frame. So there was no damage to the house. The dispatcher said she’d tell the patrol and they’d decide if it was worth investigating.

This is not a high-crime area. Heck, in L.A. it was not uncommin to hear gunfire near my apartment. Here it’s very quiet. Still, it’s a summer community and there are a lot of kids who seem to like to perform the odd bit of vandalism. There was a meth lab a block away that was raided a few months ago. I thought an open window in an often-vacant house was supicious. After seeing that the window was just open and not missing, I guessed that the last visitors simply forgot to close it. Better safe than sorry though.

The deputy came over and came to the same conclusion, but climbed in through the window anyway. He announced his presence and drew his sidearm. He came out the front door and said that there were some sleeping bags in the living room and that it appeared that nothing was amiss.

I guess next week in The Northern Light Police Blotter I’ll read something like: “Resident reported an open window at neighbour’s house. WCSD responded and found no sign of illegal entry.”

Why would there be sleeping bags in the living room? Does that mean neighborhood kids are using the place to have slumber parties?

This is a seaside vacation community where most of the houses are vacant most of the year. Come summer, they’re used by the owners (“Hey, let’s go to the cabin by the beach for a couple of weeks!”) or let out to vacationers. I don’t know how many relatives the guy has, and I haven’t paid attention to their comings and goings. (In L.A. I only knew a couple of my neighbours in the apartment building. Old habits, y’know…) I suspect the last batch had some people sleeping in the living room and they forgot to pack their sleeping bags, or they are returning and just left them there.

He was allowed to enter without a search warrant? :dubious:

Exigent circumstances.

If an officer suspects a crime has been committed in a agiven location or civvies may be injured, they are expected, not merely allowed, to investigate… The officer noted that no one was home and with an open window, it was possible that theives were on the premises, especially in a town with many tourists - or less savory types- coming and going.

Sorry, but I don’t see any evidence of a crime being committed. And J. L.A. said it was not a high-crime area.

Are you saying that, if we go on vacation for a month in Europe, and we accidentally leave a window open, a cop is justified in entering our home? :dubious:

Wait, whoa, back up. You were painting registration numbers on the zodiac? Groovy, man, far out. But like, the zodiac belongs to all of us.

Or should I assume this is a boat you own? Was I supposed to know that? :confused:

Yes, it’s a zodiac-type boat. i.e., an inflatable runabout. Specifically, a Mercury 14-foot red inflatable with a Mercury 25 hp, four-stroke engine.

But I might try to register the Zodiac so I can collect royalties from all of the astrologers.

There doesn’t have to be evidence that a crime has been committed. There just has to be a reasonable expectation.

And bitch about it all you want, 99.9% of the times the exigent circumstances argument holds up in court, so it’s a fait accompli in our society.

And the fact that a neighbor called probably accounts for 99% of the circumstances here.

The logic is, this person lives here, notes it is very unusual for the window to be open, and the home is often vacant. The possibility of people messing with seasonal property isn’t out of this world, it happens quite a lot and can involve lots of theft or just a bit of mischief.

In summation you guys watch way too much Law & Order if you think police are as constrained by paperwork as they are in that show.

And you’ll be vastly disappointed to find out that most defense lawyers aren’t 1/10th as skillful as the ones on that show (nor is much of what they do based on realistic legal proceeding.)

When Fireman & I when away overnight, we didn’t ask anyone to pick up our mail (one day’s worth!). The mailman said something to a nosy neighbor, who call the police. They not only came into the house, they allowed old miss busybody to follow them in!
We would never have even known if she hadn’t rushed over to tell us what was what. We knew she’d been inside with them because she mentioned the three dirty dishes in the sink! She said she would have been sooo embarrassed for someone to see that in her house.

What were the exigent circumstances?

Hint: none.

Exigent circumstances are

Nonetheless, the officer’s entry was most likely legal, and any evidence he found inside as he looked around would likely have been admissible.


Great – I got a ride on a 14-foot gray Zodiac (don’t recall the model) while up north – a truly fun little craft. (They are used in Antarctica to get on shore from the large seagoing vessels, I found out.)

There’s a fairly cheap little plastic dingus you can buy and mount on the bottom (keel is not the right word for a Zodiac!) that enables it to “plane” better – running smoothly atop the water, instead of at a 25-degree angle to the horizontal. If you don’t have one, ask your boat supply guy about it.

To answer my own question, just so the issue isn’t left hanging…

The community caretaker exception is most likely relevant here. NOT the exigent circumstances exception.

Sounds like squatters to me.

No, no, don’t do that! You’ll have to answer all their questions!

I found out from a neighbour that the heirs consist of about seven families, and they take turns using the house. He said that the latest “tenant” opened the window to air it out. He suggested to her that she leave a contact number with me in case something really does happen. I saw them on their deck, but nobody has come over yet.