Do police have to reimburse damage done during a search?

I’ve been watching too much CSI but the question occurred to me while watching an episode. In the episode a workman finds a skeletal hand sticking out of the concrete in the foundation of a house. The CSI team is called in and promptly jackhammers away the foundation to get the corpse out.

My question is does the state (or city or police department) have to pay to have the house put back together? Does it matter if the people living there were responsible for the crime or they moved in after-the-fact?

I hope you don’t mind - I’d also like to know what happens if the police search your place due to a bum lead or something and find nothing (but muddy your carpet/break your vases/kill your goldfish).

Wow. I hope someone who knows the answer comes along soon because I’ve often wondered about this very thing. And of course I have another, similar question:

What happens when the police/emergency medical people have to break in?

In various houses I’ve lived in, the front door has been two or three floors below me, and locked (with no buzzer). What if I had been home alone, and fallen and not been able to get up? They would have come, rang the doorbell, rang and rang and rang, and eventually (I’m assuming) have to bust the door down.

Who pays for that?

My WAG is home insurance.

(Sorry, but I think this ties in.) What about in a vehicle? What if they tear up your seats looking for drugs or something?

IANAL, but I’d guess that first it depends on local laws. Generally I’d think that it
would be your responsibility to file a claim w/ the agency involved. If they denied the
claim, you’d have to bring suit and prove your case. I do recall see an episode of
“Cops” where an officer responded to a fire. He was trying to alert the residents and
there was a lot of smoke. He broke a window in the wrong house. He later made a
statement, to the resident, indicating that the city would pay for the window.
If the police agency could prove that they had reasonable cause to search, even if an
error was made, you might be out of luck. Say a third party gave them false
information, it would be up to you to go after the third party for redress.
In the event you called for emergency medical, or fire dept. help, I think it would be
your responsibility to provide access, if they had to damage your door or window it
would be your problem.

When we in the CG conduct destructive searches on vessels, and we don’t find anything, we give the owner the necessary paperwork to submit a claim for reimbursement. We need to document the damage that we created so as to protect the gov’t from excessive or false claims.

If we do find drugs, the owner is just SOL on any damage that occurs.

I think Scruloose has it right. If the police are tipped off that you have drugs hidden in a shoebox under your bed they can get a warrant to check for it. If they find it they can then tear apart the rest of your house looking for more and you’re SOL. If they don’t find anything, and they then tear apart your house, then they would held accountable for any damage. This may vary by jurisdiction. YMMV.

I understand, but that seems unfair since he has yet to be convicted.

You’re right, and I should probably amend my post to state that I’m not 100% sure that the owner really is totally SOL.

For example, drugs are often found on vessels where only 1 member of the crew was involved, not the owner. Or sometimes drugs are on vessels where nobody on the crew was involved (this is more common on large merchant ships). So can the owner still file a claim? Probably, but I’m not sure how far he/she will get with it. At the field level, we don’t often hear about these things months/years after the fact.

But the main point remains, if we don’t find anything, we’re required by policy to provide the necessary paperwork to the owner.

If we’re in a situation where we need forced entry into a home, we’ll call for law enforcement and let them do the actual entry. They’re typically on the sort of calls where we’d need to do that, anyway. Also, in my area, if the police do break into a residence they will have an officer remain on scene until the building can be secured again.

St. Urho

My MIL fell down and couldn’t get up, but luckily she had seen the commercials and pushed her button. The medics and/or police kicked the back door, taking out the jamb where the bolt goes. The firemen were ready to stay, but we got there as they were drilling the door and frame to put in a nail as a temporary bolt. We now have a key outside.

If they damage the house, they will probably pay voluntarily. If they don’t, some courts have held that the damage is a taking under the Fifth Amendment. (collecting cases).

If they just make a mess, you’re probably out of luck.<—WAG

The takings cases, btw, are questionable. The Supreme Court held in Bennis that “[t]he government may not be required to compensate an owner for property which it has already lawfully acquired under the exercise of governmental authority other than the power of eminent domain.”

Hmm. The time I got my locks drilled out by the police, I think my landlords just sucked up the cost of replacement. Probably it’ll come out of my security deposit, but I won’t know for sure until I move …

(My mother had invited herself over to my place, without telling me, on a weekend when I was off visiting some friends. Knocking on my door and getting no answer, she jumped to what she considered a logical conclusion: I was dead. Events sort of snowballed from there, apparently … First I heard about it was when I came back, and found a note on my front door saying the locks had been changed. Thanks, Mum!)

This made me laugh so much I paused the TV show we were watching to read it to my friends.

It would not surprise me if my mom did the same thing.

I’d guess that guilt and neccesity are the two key factors here. If one is found guilty of whatever crime caused damage, there is no need to reimburse the guilty party as the damage was (at least in part) neccessary. If the paramedics need to cut off your clothes or have your door kicked in for the purpose of saving your life, they were “exercising due diligence” and “reasonably relying” on the need to cause such damages in order to save a life.

That said, it would hardly seem just for cops to be able to destroy one’s belongings on an unsubstantiated tip, without being liable.

Also, INAL, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night!

When I was coming home from China last summer I went through airport security in San Francisco. I was carrying a small bag that had a hole where the seam of the zipper was starting to separate. Well, the security guy opened my bag by putting a couple fingers in the hole and ripping it right open the full length of the zipper*. I was like “Hey, you just tore my bag open!” and he told me that I was SOL, they’re not responsible for damaged items.

[sub]* I’m pretty sure this was done purely out of spite, but that’s not relevant to the thread.[/sub]

I have a friend who used to own several apartments in seedier parts of Baltimore several years ago (I think he sold off the last one in the late 80s.) And it wasn’t totally uncommon for doors to get knocked down as part of some drug bust or something. He said while he filed the paperwork to get reimbursed by the city several times he said he only ever got compensated once, and he figured any efforts he made to force the matter would have been more expensive than the price of a new door, so he just had to absorb the cost.

I’d say he’s probably incorrect. I don’t think they can just destroy whatever they want without you having any recourse. But unless we’re talking a really expensive bag it wouldn’t be worth your trouble, so it’s the kind of “little” areas where people in power can pull a dick-move without ever really getting into trouble over it.

Freshman year during finals I didn’t check my messages for 2 days; my mother filed a missing persons report and started calling local hospitals. I got a visit from the campus police to make sure I was alive.