Shouldn’t the Cops Need a Warrant, or at Least Probable Cause, to Come on Your Land?

State Rep. Luke Simons Dickinson Press photo

As it was originally written, HB1290 introduced by Rep. Luke Simons (R-Dickinson) would have prohibited law enforcement from entering any person’s private land without permission unless they have a warrant, probable cause, or if the entry is justified by an emergent situation.

Here’s the language it would have added to the North Dakota Century Code:

You wouldn’t think this sort of addition to statute would be necessary. After all, the 4th amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees Americans the right to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects” from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” But your land is not your house, and the Supreme Court has held that it’s not your “effect” either. As Bilal Suleiman reported earlier this year, the federal courts have ruled that searches outside of a property owner’s curtilage (the area immediately around where you live) don’t need a warrant.

Rep. Simons, a rancher inspired to introduce this bill by his treatment from law enforcement after someone he described as a “busbody” made multiple complaints of animal neglect against him, sought a legislative fix to this loophole in our privacy rights.

…your land is not your house, and the Supreme Court has held that it’s not your “effect” either.

This language passed the House of Representatives by a wide margin – 64 yeas to 29 nays – back in February.

Unfortunately, North Dakota’s Senate chamber is far more deferential to the wishes of law enforcement than the House chamber. Thanks, perhaps, in no small part to the influence of Senator Diane Larson (R-Bismarck) who worked, before retiring, for the Bismarck Police Department.

Senator Larson can’t ever seem to find a limit on police power she’s in favor of.

Her committee used the “death by study” maneuver on this bill. They turned the original language into a request for a study into the matter by Legislative Council, and then the Senate chamber killed the bill on a 4 – 43 vote.

Under the status quo, law enforcement has what is essentially unfettered access to any of your property – including any outbuildings like sheds or barns – which are more than 60 feet from your home.

That seems more than a little unreasonable to this observer.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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