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Court Discusses 4th Amendment Issues


In 2003, a senior building inspector for the Village of Westbury in Nassau County, New York, was working on a code violation case involving the operation of an illegal boarding house. The house in question was zoned as a single family dwelling house located at 335 Princeton Street. The home was occupied by several persons who were clearly not related. The code enforcement officer spent many hours surveying the home. He documented that there were more than twelve individual people that he observed going in and out of the home at different times. He documented the presence of eight vehicles that were each registered to different people with different last names.

A New York DWI Lawyer said he contacted the city garbage service and interviewed the garbage man about the amount of garbage that was picked up from that location. The garbage man gave him a sworn written statement that he had noticed that the house produced more than five times the amount of garbage that any of the other homes in that area produced. The senior code enforcement officer had recently been transferred to the Village earlier that year from a Village that was more proactive about handling the enforcement of code violations involving illegal boarding houses. The code enforcement officer was well versed in obtaining search warrants for properties that he needed to inspect. Without a search warrant, the occupants of the dwelling do not have to allow an officer to enter upon the dwelling. This right against illegal search and seizure is spelled out in the United States Constitution in the Fourth Amendment.

The rights that are ensured by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution are taken very seriously. In this case, the officers involved did not limit the scope of their search as was required by the details in the warrant. The warrant allowed that the dwelling be searched for evidence of an illegal boarding facility. The code enforcement officer brought along several Nassau County police officers to assist him with the search of the home. These officers were not as well versed in the case as the code enforcement officer. That meant that they chose to handle the warrant the same way that they would have handled a criminal warrant.

The differences between a civil warrant and a criminal one is in the recourse that is available as punishment for the diversion of the owner or operator to a reasonably standard. While this may seem vague, it has functioned to establish a minimum of investigation that will ensure that everyone is held accountable who is at fault. A New York DWI Lawyer said when the police officers made entry into the apartment, it was clear that many of the people who lived there had fled upon the officer’s arrival. The officers found many different identifications that showed them that numerous unrelated occupants were available. In a civil warrant the outcome of the warrant is not a criminal charge. It is merely a fact finding mission to shore up the case of a code violation. It is rare that an incident of violence erupts over such a mild determination as being given a ticket to appear in the state court of Nassau County, in New York. On the other hand, the outcome of a criminal warrant is usually a trip to the county jail.

In this particular case, the officers chose to assault the house in the early morning hours before most of the residents of the house were awake. This dangerous practice put all of the officers at risk. A Nassau County DWI Lawyer said that a criminal warrant would have provided the opportunity to arrest under a criminal warrant any law breakers that were observed. The reality was that in a civil trial, the person will only receive a summons to appear in court to justify his perspective on the situation. In this case, the court ordered that numerous statements that were made by the terrified occupants of the building were suppressed because of the way in which the police officers chose to interview the occupants.

At Stephen Bilkis & Associates with its civil litigation Lawyers there are convenient offices throughout New York State and Metropolitan area. Our code violation Attorneys can provide you with advice to guide you through difficult situations. Hiring a civil attorney can prevent you from losing precious time with your family.

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