Boston PD Begins a Program of Warrantless Searches to Sieze Guns from Minors

Here’s the article on about this program.

The bare bones of the program, AIUI from this article, is that the Police will be asking parents for permission to search homes of teens that community police (esp. those officers posted in schools) suspect of having guns. If a gun is found it will be confiscated, but there will be no prosecution. Unless such weapon is found to have been used in an open case. The article already mentions that the officers won’t be trying to search homes for anyone who might be suspected of an actual crime, beyond possession of firearms.

I really have a bad feeling about this. Even with the protections that the program is predicated upon - consensual search (at least from the responsible adults); and lack of prosecution, and an emphasis upon discretion, I really can’t help but see how the program could be abused.

The simplest problem is that even if a given teen is suspected by the school officer of being “an impact player” (to use the term used in the article) that’s a world of difference between suspecting it, and getting confirmation. Then add that the Police will be confiscating drugs found, too, and the hinky feeling gets worse. They say that they won’t be doing anything beyond confiscation, for small amounts. But they do leave things open for prosecution if the amount found is sufficient that an intent to distribute charge would be appropriate.

Finally, I have to wonder just how much pressure these officers will be willing to bring to get the consent to search.

I would have no trouble if the program were to make such searches available to parents, upon request. But that’s not how it’s going. Likewise, having the officer in the school telling the family that he or she believes that there is reason to wonder if the teen is getting into problematical areas, and letting them know that a team could come to do a search for firearm with no legal repurcussions to the teen, if it’s found and confiscated. Of course, I can’t think of a single teen who never got into “problematical” areas.

It really rubs me the wrong way, and I wonder what other Dopers might think about the program.

MY question is, what happens the first time both parents consent but the kid is there and says no. According to the terrible decision in Georgia v. Randolph the kid could veto mom & dad. (But who am I kidding? There probably won’t be any “Dads” in the places they’re trying to search. :rolleyes: )

Either way, Some kid is bound to get pinched on a crime from the search, so I smell an eventual SCOTUS ruling.

Hm, The Sup Ct has never ruled on a case where the consentor and non-consentor do not have equal claim of authority over the home. One factor the court looks at is consent searches is whether there is real or apparent authority to consent to the search, but they have never touched real or apparent authority in the context of refusal, to my knowledge.

Interesting. I hope my Criminal Procedure prof doesn’t read this case before the final! If I had to guess, I would say the Sup Ct would say that a dependent minor has a reduced expectation of privacy in their parents home and thus their refusal does not carry equal weight to the parents consent. In addition, Georgia v. Randlph used a “social norms” analysis and there is no social norm that an adult generally obeys a child. I am loathe to hang my hat on the latter reasoning though. Reduced expectation of privacy has more teeth if you ask me.

But er… don’t quote me on that.

My first gut level fear is what happens, real time, real life when the parents say no. That’s the short route to abuse.

Sgt. Bubba says, “You don’t want a search, fine. But that means we gotta keep an eye on you.”


Remembering some of my prof’s ramblings:

As age goes up and level of parental control over the space goes down, and as the parental relationship becomes more distant, the minor’s expectation of privacy can go up.

In other words, a 13y/o living with mom who has no door on his bedroom and shares it with his little brother has less of an expectation of privacy than a 17y/o who lives with his aunt and has a locked bedroom door. It can get dicier if the kid cleans his own room as opposed to mom/whoever cleaning it for him, etc.

I am interning at a District Attorney’s office near Boston. I’ll float some questions around the office tomorrow and see what solid answers I can find.

Me, I don’t like the idea as a citizen, but as a DA I can certainly appreciate it.

I’d consider letting them search my place for guns, if they tidied it up in the process.
So, how well would a “police housekeeping” operation go over? “There may be a gun on top of the kitchen cabinets and while you’re up there, can you do some dusting?”

But won’t they have to keep pausing to test all the dust they find to make sure it’s not snortable? :wink:

Actually, the more I muse on this, the better I like it. The cops say they’ll provide housecleaning services, but they get to confiscate any suspected illegal guns or drugs they find. A parent gets their teenager’s room tidied up and “swept” - it’s win-win!

This raises all kinds of interesting issues-like, what if evidence of OTHER crimes is uncovered during these searches? Suppose a memeber of the household is wanted on criminal charges-can he/she be arrested while this is going on? And, is evidence obtained without a search warrant valid?

Does a non-owning (or non-rental contract signing) person of any age have any legal rights at all, to keep out someone the owner/renter has given permission to?

Say I have a guest bedroom, which I let a friend stay in. While that friend is still with me, the police ask me for permission to search the house, and I agree. Can my friend keep the police out?

It depends. If you give the friend a key, especially to the room if not the house, and said person establishes the room as his/her place of residence, then there is a reasonable right to privacy.

If you’re letting him or her stay the night or the week, then no, you can let the cops in.

Always ask your friends to pay you a buck to rent the room where they stay. That means they have the same rights of privacy for the duration of their stay, no matter how long, that they would have in an apartment. Tell them why.


The test for authority to consent to a search is actual use. Being or not being on a lease; paying or not paying rent does not automatically create a legal right or lack thereof. For example, if the owner is absentee (ie doesn’t live there in the place to be searched) he has little real authority (arguably none) to consent to the search, even though he is the technically owner, and certainly not over the objections of the resident. A citizen has a Protected Privacy Interest in his own home. Home is defined as the place where you live, not some other place that you happen to own.

Of course, if your landlord can provide evidence that you are running a meth lab in the apartment, that’s probable cause for a search warrant so the landlord can still get the police in the door in the right circumstances. But with a warrant, not 3rd party consent.

Now this is as to the POLICE. As to some third person, not an agent of the State, that your landlord has given permission to enter the premises but you object to, I have no idea.

YES ALWAYS, with a CONSENT SEARCH, unless consent was coerced with falsehoods (consent that’s coerced with true statements, such as “I could apply for a warrant” does not render the consent involuntary). Consent searches are an exception for the general rule that a warrant and probable cause is needed to search a home. When you consent the police don’t need ANY justification other than the consent, and whatever they find is admissable as long as it was within the scope of what was consented to.

Which is why you should never, ever consent to a search. If they have probable cause, let 'em show it.