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Indiana man charged with theft for removing police tracking device from car (washingtonpost.com)
318 points by pseudolus on Nov 22, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 210 comments



If someone drops something in my car, and I unwittingly drive off with it, it is still not mine. But I did not steal it. If the person asks for it back, and I refuse, then I am stealing it.

All the police had to do was knock on his door and ask for it back. If he refused, that's grounds for theft. If he denied knowledge of it (like if it had just fallen off somewhere) that doesn't sound like sufficient grounds for a search warrant, and if the search warrant did turn up evidence of some unrelated crime, that evidence shouldn't be admissible.

I'm no lawyer, but that's what sounds right to me.

(I don't agree that Finders Keepers is a legal basis for ownership, or that leaving your door open means it's ok to steal, or that a bank error in your favor means you get to keep it.)


If you hide something on my car to spy on me then it's not reasonable to expect it back if I find it. Charging somebody with theft for something like this is effectively rewarding the police for being incompetent.

One of the worst mistakes in modern government is pretending that the people 'serving' have more rights and privileges then everybody else.

They should have less.


> One of the worst mistakes in modern government is pretending that the people 'serving' have more rights and privileges then everybody else.

The correct term to use here is "powers". The people have "rights". The people delegate, through the constitution, certain "powers" to the government. The government, in turn, delegates some of those powers to the police. The police do not have "rights". The government does not have "rights". The government and police have "powers", and are supposed to exercise those powers within specified limits.

What is under discussion here is the limits of those powers.


Police de facto have more rights because they can expect lenient punishment (or no punishment) for crimes they commit even when out of uniform. You can argue until you're blue in the face about de jure rights but those don't matter very much when a cop pulls you over and fears for his life.


Not by intention however, but I'd mostly agree they do in practice.


Linking cause and effect in the big picture is too slow to stop and worry about intent. History is replete with horrific injustices that didn't happen because anyone intended it to turn out that way.

Intent is a reasonable yardstick to assess who goes to jail and who doesn't. It is a terrible way to deal with systems and processes. There isn't time and it isn't productive to defend a system with bad incentives and outcomes because it wasn't intended to be that way.


It is entirely intentional.


Where is this intention written down? Can you show me the relevant law?


Qualified immunity laws and case law is what you are looking for.


Not to mention being 'on the level'.


>The people delegate, through the constitution, certain "powers" to the government.

Did the people vote to delegate those rights? Were the people ever asked?


Why yes, yes indeed they were asked, and yes indeed they did vote. Look up the voting procedures around the ratification of the US constitution. They are rather interesting. The vote was put directly to the people, intentionally bypassing the statehouses so that the vote would be directly by the people. (Where the definition of "people" is white, male, and I believe also had to be a landowner -- but still, considering the times, a radical level of democracy.)


>Where the definition of "people" is white, male, and I believe also had to be a landowner -- but still, considering the times, a radical level of democracy

So, at best the "people" of 3 centuries ago where asked. And not all the people, just the white, male, landowners (and rich -- poorer white male people only got to vote 1.5 centuries later or more in the US, even in general elections).

And why is this binding for people, including poor, non landowning, women, blacks, latinos, asians, etc, 3 centuries later?


I'd settle for experimenting with "same".

If a regular citizen can't plant a bug, neither can police. If police can conduct a stakeout, so can regular citizens. They just have to follow the same process. That might include going in front of a judge and getting a warrant.

If a regular citizen could break up a bar fight, the police should be able to take the same actions. If police can set up a sting operation, so should citizens be allowed.

Obviously, we don't want everybody running around conducting sting operations or traffic stops. So we set some bar for regular citizens that makes it less likely. But police should have to face the exact same bar. The difference is that we pay for their time, training, equipment, etc. If a certain level of training is required before anybody can make a traffic stop, that training should be open for anybody. We just pay the admission and the salary for police to take the training. Regular citizens foot their own bill.

Edit: poor proofreading


So the obvious question then is should we be allowed place trackers in police cars, so we can track them on Waze (for example), and it would be a crime for them to remove it.

Equivalencies of Powers/Rights is a good thought experiment that would keep the powers of the enforcers from multiplying without limits.


If authorized by a judge then yes.


amen.

and if magnetic shit falls off my car, that's the breaks, suckers.


So which do you think makes more sense: Police are not allowed to arrest people, or everyone is allowed to arrest?


Everyone being allowed to arrest is actually not far from truth in many places: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen%27s_arrest#United_Stat...


Former private security guard here: in our training, we were told that we, as private citizens, could "arrest" someone, if you're willing to sign your name to an arrest warrant. You'd want to have the cops on the way, and be willing to face a false arrest lawsuit for detaining them, so you'd better be really 100% sure you caught them in the act of doing something illegal.

We were also taught it's almost never worth doing this; basically, if someone's shooting people and you're doing an armed job, yes, use your gun to try and stop them or detain them, but if it's just property damage or theft, call the cops and let them do their thing. The risk to you isn't worth it, nor is the risk of a false arrest lawsuit.


I think that hints towards freeopinion's point. You, as a private citizen, should have exactly the same legal liability with respect to false arrest as a police officer.

Then the question is, is such a good idea?


Everyone is allowed to arrest. Police only get that power as an extension of their citizenship.

There was a curious case a few years back of a non-citizen who had been a military police officer and became a civilian cop because nobody checked his documentation. His military activities were perfectly legal but all arrests made as a civilian were invalid.


There's also the case of the lady in Florida who pulled the police officer over for speeding.


> the people 'serving' have more rights and privileges then everybody else

I was told the difference between a policeman and a citizen (via citizen's arrest) is that a policeman can arrest someone for a misdemeanor.


According to Wikipedia, misdemeanors are OK too, as long as they were committed in the presence of that citizen.

I think the real difference is that the cops have qualified immunity, meaning they aren't at fault even if the arrest turned out to be unjustified, and regular citizens do not.


I think police can be at fault, it's just the individual police officer doesn't typically pay the fine, it's their jurisdiction (city/county), i.e. the citizens.

I don't mean to sound pedantic, just having a conversation.


So police and firefighters shouldn’t be allowed to run red lights?


Not OP, but: not per se, no. Only in the pursuit of some specific task which requires them to do that. Just like a citizen can run a red light if they have to rush someone to a hospital.

Or at least I’d hope they can.


It's probably a defence rather than being directly permissable.


Sure, but in the context of an ethics exploring thought experiment, those are the same. This is about what the law should be (if I understand the game correctly).


Well, this depends.

On the way to an emergency? Of course they should. And people should pull over.

And only sometimes while on the job. For example, if they catch someone for speeding and happen to go through a red light, I don't find that to be a grave thing. Speeding is easily a public hazard. Going off to investigate a theft where the thief has left the property, though? No need to run the light as the delay won't make a difference. Going to a car accident, especially with hurt folks or that is blocking traffic? Yes. Car accident in an open section of parking lot? Rarely necessary.


They have protocols for that and generally follow them.


Ambulances, sure. Firefighters? Yeah, usually. Cops? You'll have to convince me if you are talking about midwestern American cops. I know they go through lights... because. Or they'll hurry to something non-vital, where there is no one getting hurt, yet scurry none-the-less. I never realized how common this sort of thing was - lights and freaking sound - until I moved away.


Are you listening to the police scanner or something? How do you know where or how they have been dispatched?

I live in a small northeast city off of an avenue where there are two trauma centers, a firehouse that does about 5,000 calls/year and a police HQ. I see and hear plenty of these vehicles. When you see it enough, you can spot the different patterns in how police, ambulances and fire trucks respond.


1. I know the cops do the light thing simply by knowing a few cops.

2. I don't know where they are dispactched or anything. I could tell the difference between sirens though.

3. I know not all dispatches are emergencies that need lights, sounds, or running lights. If someone has broken into your business, for example, and the person is no longer there, there is no need for speed, lights, and so on. I'm in a larger city in another country now... and there are less sirens and stuff here. It is really weird. I know they respond and the crime rate is probably lower, but... priorities are different as well. I generally didn't see the same patterns with fire trucks and ambulances in the states, and honestly never had a complaint about them. Just the police.

Edited to add an afterthought.


Those protocols are why something like 95% of the time when you see an ambulance with the lights on there is nobody in the back. (The worst case of a broken leg is serious internal bleeding that only an expert can detect, then they get there and it is just a broken leg)


Not unless they are operating an emergency vehicle. That requires lights or siren to be active to qualify. Emergency flashers on a civilian vehicle do the same thing for everybody else.


Cops should not be allowed any power that is not available to every person, by virtue of their automatic eligibility for the county posse under authority of the sheriff, and for the state militia under authority of the governor.

Cops are supposed to be professionals, with keeping the civil order of their state and/or county and/or municipality as their full-time job, but the authority to arrest criminals historically extends from the sheriff of the county, to every person whom he or she may designate, either orally or in writing. If the sheriff asked for assistance from an ordinary person, and they effected an arrest, that was legally an official act of the sheriff. Similar extension-of-authority constructs exist for a municipal mayor/council, state governor, and federal president.

Without a preexisting order to assist, as one might have as a municipal cop or full-time county deputy, there is no official cover for an arrest, and the person making one would have personal liability, if they made a mistake. That privilege of immunity for mistakes made during establishment or maintenance of civil order is supposed to keep professional cops from being too fearful of civil liability lawsuit to do their jobs effectively. I would argue that they are now not fearful enough to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with their positions in the community, as part of it, simply being persons who have been given a standing order to assist the office of the president/governor/sheriff/mayor in their duty to keep civil order. They have now set themselves apart from the communities in which they live, behind the cordon of their thin blue lines, as adversaries to those whom they see as enemies of civil order.

As such, they have become blind to those occasions on which their actions are actually upsetting to the civil order. In other words, they get into some crazy bullshit legal arguments, and sometimes get away with it.

The privilege they enjoy is actually in having their personal actions taken as extensions of a higher lawful authority, rather than as their own.

It is established that the state has the authority to require that motor vehicle owners permanently affix a license plate to their vehicles, which remains the property of the state, and not remove it, and to return it to a designated authority on demand. But this is all written into public law. You can't just arbitrarily extend that power to some cop shop's magnetic GPS tracker. If you want it to be a crime to remove it, you have to write that into its own law. Otherwise, you have to follow the same law for theft (or unlawful conversion) as everyone else. And that opens up a reciprocal liability for putting your property on someone else's property without their authorization.

I suppose the opsec moral of the story is to drop found trackers onto the public road, or report it as lost property, instead of leaving it inside a locker. Putting a classified ad for lost property in the public notices section of the local paper for three consecutive weeks might have been a fun experiment in "fruit of the poisoned tree" lawyering.


So if I put a bumper sticker on your car and walk away, then come back 3 months later and ask for it back and you refuse, then that's stealing? Really?

Because I'd say me putting something on your private property is vandalism. And you removing said vandalism is in no way a crime. They didn't have a warrant, and their device wasn't identified as belonging to the authorities. Just because the police vandalized your property (without informing you about what they were doing) shouldn't* make it any more of a crime to remove than if a private citizen did it. This is the same bullshit that empowers police to harass minorities "because we're cops".


IANAL, but doesn't vandalism sorta need destruction or damage to happen?

That level is destruction is open to interpretation, but it still requires some form of destruction or damage to be classified as vandalism.


Sure, and I doubt you would take someone to court over most definitions of vandalism. But I could pretty easily argue that when they affixed it to my car it scratched the clearcoat resulting in $XXX of damage.

CLEARLY he's not going to counter-sue, but it's ridiculous to claim it's THEFT when you violated my privacy/trespassed on/against my property while affixing the thing to my property (without a warrant) in the first place.


The application of the bumper sticker is the vandalism, just like graffiti.


Applying a bumper sticker is absolutely vandalism. It mars the paint finish. Paint on cars is surprisingly delicate, and is easily damaged by mechanical means, such as by setting objects on the roof. The bumper sticker itself won't hurt the paint, unless you leave it there for a long time, but trying to remove it is very likely to.


The battery in these units is often hooked to the car battery to keep it charged.

Theft of electricity is a crime. Indeed, before explicit computer intrusion laws, hackers used to be prosecuted for the theft of a few cents of electricity involved in the computation of their “crime”.


>> (I don't agree that Finders Keepers is a legal basis for ownership

you don't even have to find it, if something is in your car then the cops will insist that it's yours, although that doesn't necessarily make it a legal basis for ownership


The police arguing that something being in your car doesn't mean that it's yours is a good thing for the bag of cocaine and explosives in my car.


This sets a precedent for anybody that follows and tells them that if they want to arrest somebody they just need to put a tracker in a place they will find it so they can arrest them for theft afterwards.


There is a valid argument that it is yours. If it's in your possession now. While you may not have ownership, you could imply that by someone attaching the item to your car they were giving it to you.


This is correct. Theft requires the mens rea of turning someone else's property into your own. If you mistakenly believe the item is yours, you cannot be guilty of thefttheft. IIRV, the same goes if you believe an item is abandoned.


>All the police had to do was knock on his door and ask for it back. If he refused, that's grounds for theft.

No, it's not. For all the police knew, as you say, it could have fallen off on its own. Definitely not PC.


I shouldn’t be inconvenienced or violated in the attempt to return things to you though. In these kinds of morally dubious scenarios, either you make all effort or the materials in question fall below a level of societal notability.


That part doesn’t sound right:

> trackers placed by the government under a warrant are distinct from those placed by private citizens. Removing a device from a car where it has a legal basis to be “deprives the police of its use,” he claimed, and constitutes a crime.

You have no way to tell a police tracker from a stawker’s one. How can removing it possibly constitute a crime?


Had he been made aware of the tracking device, like one is with an ankle monitoring bracelet, then sure, removal is cause for an arrest on theft, destruction of property, etc.

However, since he was not made aware of the device, he has no obligation to be compliant.

If the police were tapping someone's phone and they threw away the phone, for whatever reason, would they be in a similar situation?

If they avoided a human surveillance detail, would they be in a similar situation?

Likely no and no.

So while the police did things correctly, getting warrants, etc, the suspect was still entirely unaware of any need to comply.

The guy should walk.

Edit: addendum

If the device had been labeled "Property of {X} Police, do not remove", then they'd have a better case.

Same way the police are supposed to (but don't) announce themselves before kicking down your door.

You're not more important than the citizenry you serve.


They claim that a police tracker is obviously different than a civilian one. Didn't say how. But if it becomes illegal to remove a police tracker, how soon before the civilian ones resemble the police ones?


That assumes civilians are aware of what "civilian" trackers look like.

Not a reasonable assumption.


Yeah - assuming there is any difference is frankly highly ignorant of industrialization and supply chains. Manufacturers are highly encouraged to go general purpose with everything unless it is restricted. That is how economies of scale work essentially.

A given model say a M1911 Pistol may still be in use by the military but it has been a civilian item for over a century at this point. Barring say labeling like serial numbers and look ups or red handed catching of thieves there is no reasonable way to say if a given specimen in a pawn shop is stolen. A predator drone however is clearly military only for now and a pawn shop dealing with it is obviously selling stolen goods illegally. (After all civilians manufactured them in the first place.)


> how soon before the civilian ones resemble the police ones

This doesn't feel like a strong argument. A police uniform doesn't become useless just because bad guys could wear the same.


I believe that the point of the theft charge was to get a search warrant, which they did. Regardless of if he “walks” on the theft charge it seems unlikely that the evidence they gathered when serving that warrant will be thrown out.


It should be, but legal precedent is a bit of a mixed bag on the admissibility of evidence collected during the execution of an invalid warrant.

If a judge finds that it's not the polics'd fault that the warrant was invalid, they can use it. If it was there fault, it's probably inadmissible.


How convenient for the justice system to have a built in plausible deniability. A few winks and nods when asking for the warrant and all is admissible.


I've always thought that all evidence is admissible. However without a proper warrant the officer collecting evidence is guilty of a felony more sever than the crime he is investigating.

The only flaw I see is how to get the state to prosecute officers of this crime...


If they obtained these evidence illegally then it shouldn't be admissible in court.


U.S. v. Leon (1984) disagrees with you.

Added a "good faith" exception to the 4th amendment.

Meaning that, if the police were acting on a warrant they believe they obtained correctly, the evidence they collected usually is admissible.

In this case, both they and the judge thought disabling an unknown tracking device was probable cause to search for the device. During that search, the police found drugs and drug paraphernalia.


5th amendment comes to mind, as in you are not under obligation to provide incriminatory evidence


> How can removing it possibly constitute a crime?

I think what's worse is that this opens up a 4th Amendment "exploit". Want to search someone's house but don't have a enough evidence to get a warrant?

1. Put a $20 bill where the suspect will find it.

2. Wait for the suspect to pick it up.

3. Accuse them of stealing the $20, get a warrant to search their home.


Yeah, how can that law have Mens Rea if you can't possibly know, then again it's the police so justice doesn't always apply.


They'll start placing "property of XY police department" stickers on the devices.


And so will the stalkers.


He should have mailed the device to the police.

Then again, even if he disposed the device, the police should have been able to track it down.


Or just stuck it on a cop car.


Random semi trailer would have definitely thrown them for a loop when it drives 8hr straight out of their jurisdiction.

Shipped to Mexico would have been a good one as well.


However you may feel about the theft charge, if you find a tracker on your car, don't take it off. It's an occasion to call the police. Someone is either committing a crime by tracking you illegally or you're letting the police know you found their tracker. Maybe they'll remove it, as once the tracker is known to exist it's useless.

If you want to go the route of civil disobedience and take it off on moral grounds, you can do that too, but you'll probably go to jail. This isn't the first time I've heard of this, the FBI has charged people for tampering with the trackers they've put on people's cars.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/afontevecchia/2011/05/09/heres-...


It should be noted that the tracker did not say "property of the police" and if even it had, there's no way to know if it was the police (since cops don't tell people they're being investigated and someone else could put a stamp on their own tracker. And it's one police unit that has placed the tracker, dispatch or whoever you might call, won't know which unit placed the item or whether a unit did).

From article: "'What if it’s not the police’s tracker device?' asked Justice Geoffrey Slaughter. 'What if instead it belongs to the jilted girlfriend or the nosy neighbor? Is it also theft if he removes that device from his vehicle?'"


> "'What if it’s not the police’s tracker device?' asked Justice Geoffrey Slaughter. 'What if instead it belongs to the jilted girlfriend or the nosy neighbor? Is it also theft if he removes that device from his vehicle?'"

The thing to do is to call the police.


> However you may feel about the theft charge, if you find a tracker on your car, don't take it off.

Yes, but ...

> It's an occasion to call the police.

If you are a drug dealer it is an occasion to hide your supply extra hard. And use a second car/taxi for your drug dealing while using the compromised car for perfectly legal things like an upstanding citizen.


> If you are a drug dealer it is an occasion to hide your supply extra hard.

I suspect he did. Most likely the police planted the glass pipe that was found when searching for the tracking device so that they could obtain permission from the judge for the second search.


I upvoted this specifically so the people who still believe in the essential lawfulness of police would have a better chance of seeing it. The slang term is "testilying".

There is low conditional probability that a drug dealer smart enough to locate and remove a GPS tracker would put it in the same physical locker compartment as a crack pipe after taking it off.

Were I the judge, I would be especially wary of "automatic probable cause" objects that were coincidentally found with the search warrant target, namely "drug paraphernalia", "the distinctive odor of marijuana", and "the K-9 unit alerted".

Ask to see the glass pipe they found. Ask to see the photograph of it in situ next to the tracking device. Compare it very closely to evidence taken from previous drug cases. When the cops are unable to back up their bullshit story, throw their whole case out and cite someone for perjury.


> Were I the judge...

Your mental model of a typical American judges values is, unfortunately, unrepresentative in the extreme.


My mental model of the typical American judge involves a lot of corner-cutting, and disdain for actually doing the job of applying reason and wise judgment to real-world situations, instead of just following a checklist of established procedures and conforming to precedent.

Judges tend to rule in favor of lawyers that do most of their work for them. It's a lot easier to get an order if the lawyer submits a draft order, and the judge can just sign it.

I get it. I also like to slack off and get paid. To be perfectly honest, I'd probably only double-check the evidence if a random number generator said to do it, based on the pre-established sampling rate setting in my judge-automation program.


I suppose I misspoke, your mental model sounds accurate XD. I wish there were a mandated evidence double check sampling rate! The point I was making is that I suspect in most courtrooms the rate is effectively 0.


> so the people who still believe in the essential lawfulness of police

Your jaded perception of police is mistaken. You just hate the police and your argument doesn't make any sense.

> Ask to see the glass pipe they found. Ask to see the photograph of it in situ next to the tracking device. Compare it very closely to evidence taken from previous drug cases. When the cops are unable to back up their bullshit story, throw their whole case out and cite someone for perjury.

You want the judge to rule on a comparison of previous drug cases of how people store their drug pipes? The police need to back up their "bullshit" story because of this drug dealer didn't follow the drug pipe storage protocol others follow?


No. My initial presumption is that the pipe they found with the tracker was actually taken out of the evidence room, from a previous drug case, and planted at the search site solely to justify a further search elsewhere on the property. The comparison would be to see if they were using the same piece of evidence for multiple cases.

It probably would have been easier to just watch the bodycam and dashcam videos.


I imagine you can't just take a crack pipe from a previous case out of a police evidence room.


Imagine harder. Can you imagine a cop being worse at their job than everyone you currently work with? If people could not take things from evidence, evidence would not go missing. It happens less in larger departments that have more secure protocols for evidence handling, but in those cases, the stuff mainly gets stolen by evidence tech employees that know better how to cheat the system. It disappears just as surely as merchandise is stolen from Wal-Mart by its own employees.

Even if it was not evidence from another case, I don't think that new glass drug pipes are hard to obtain. After all, cocaine addicts that have smoked up everything else in their life can still get them. Cops have closer physical proximity to that lifestyle, and could pick up an abandoned pipe from one place, and later drop it where it would be more useful.

This type of misbehavior has been documented on bodycams, when the cop thought the recording device was on standby. Drop contraband, turn on bodycam, "find" contraband, arrest suspect for possession of contraband. Cops that cut corners to take down drug dealers--or other people whom they just know are guilty--think they are doing the right thing.


> And use a second car/taxi for your drug dealing

If you are a drug dealer and find a police tracker on your car, it's time to stop being a drug dealer.


If part of an organized ring I wonder how well acting as a dedicated decoy would pay off strategically.

Deliberately "cry wolf" with legitimate but shady looking shipments while other members carry out business. Of course that would make them and the organization lose their illegitimate income and the police likely outnumber them in particular even if there may be more smugglers total.

Of course long term thinking and crime for profit don't usually go together - quick gains and jackpots are the temptations in the first place.


Right or wrong aside, this is already illegal where I live by the same reason it is illegal to be sober and leave a bar as the designated decoy (ie: pretend to be drunk to distract an officer watching the bar for drunk drivers).


Larger scale smugglers/producers definitely do this, and yea, if you're a middle management drug dealer in one of those organizations, that's probably the play. But also they'll be getting spied on by federal/international organizations with better tools than physical magnetized trackers.


Clearly, the solution is to trade the car in.


They'll say the tracker must because of [dumb semi-plausible reason], nod at you, and keep it. Take it to a lawyer.


This is terrible advice, are you a lawyer?


Legally, what is happening when the police put a tracker on a car? It isn't a gift, or a transfer of ownership - otherwise the police retieving it would be theft. On the other hand, the vehicle owner should not be held responsible for damage to a device they don't know about. Does it become lost property?

If the disappearance of public property attached to a vehicle can be used to justify a search warrant, this seems like it would be ripe for abuse. The police could apply for a tracking warrant, wait a week, claim their tracker was lost, and then perform whatever searches they want on the private property.


IANAL

My understanding is that it's the Police's property. If you find it, you can probably legally remove it from the car, but you can't keep it or prevent the Police from recovering it.

This might be interesting to you:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theft_by_finding


Since you don't know whose tracker it is maybe the best thing to do is "lose" it again. Drop it down the nearest drain so you can plausibly say you never saw it and it must have fallen off.


> Since you don't know whose tracker it is maybe the best thing to do is "lose" it again.

Often, knowledge of surveillance almost completely diminishes its effectiveness. If you know your car has a tracker on it, the police won't get anything useful out of it, because you won't drive to any place you don't want the cops to know about.

Leaving it in place also has the advantage that you don't alert the police that you know about the surveillance.


You might need to go to those places, though, and not have alternative transport.


Is it legal to put it on your neighbor's car?

After all, you're not spying on him.


Or let it ‘drop off’ on an area of private property with a video camera on it. See who comes looking for it.


Or attach it to a semi truck that does cross-country trips.


This isn't they by finding. There is a difference between finding an object on the side of the road versus finding an object arched to your property.


> This isn't they by finding. There is a difference between finding an object on the side of the road versus finding an object arched to your property.

Sure.

If you're car gets booted, you can't keep that either.


"They sought warrants to search Heuring’s home and the barn, alleging that there was probable cause that a crime had been committed — that Heuring had committed theft by taking off the GPS tracker. While searching the barn, they found the tracker in a bathroom locker. They also found evidence of drug use: a glass pipe.

A subsequent search, granted by a judge based on the paraphernalia, uncovered bags of methamphetamine, pills, digital scales and a gun. Heuring was charged with drug dealing and with theft."

Smart enough to take the tracker off the car. Dumb enough to keep it on-location with conviction-worthy drug paraphernalia.

Attach it to a hire car. Keep it moving, but as far away from your illegalities as possible, my goodness.


I don't know. Investigators who are willing to stoop to "He stole our tracker" are surely not above exaggerating the evidence they've found.

Why do we even bother with warrants if the police can get around them by tricking you into "stealing" something?


It's so we can have the appearance of rights. Same reason why China has kangaroo courts.


100% this. Original evidence found was probably planted.


On the other hand, any police willing to act so unethically might also be willing to plant evidence out of careerism or pure malice. There is plenty of precedent for both.

Who is to say that the tracker actually was found in a locker, or the drugs and guns? Presumably they already knew where he lived.


This sort of corruption is usualy ignored, by everyone over a certain age, because we are now hostageable (family and all, you want some quiet times) and out of those fears for your loved ones, comes a little corruption of our own. Its a "If you make sure the subs are safe, i will look the other way" corruption. And this is why those who make sure, the imagined bad guys get it, get off easy.

Want to fix problem at source?


Better, just leave it on a road somewhere. As if it accidentally fell off. I'm guessing that it was magnetic.


They'd key onto that eventually (probably pretty quickly when it never returns to his house for a few days) and just recover and place another.


Whats really troubling here is in the future, the police could get a warrant to track a vehicle, take the tracker off themselves, then go back to the courts claiming there is probable cause the suspect stole the tracker and get the warrant to search for their tracker in the suspects home and parents home...of course searching for whatever it is they really wanted but had no right to search for.


It has always been possible to fabricate evidence. What's troubling to me isn't the behavior of the police (who have done much worse) but the judge, who approved the warrant on ridiculous grounds, even though the judiciary is meant to be a check on the power of the executive.


> even though the judiciary is meant to be a check on the power of the executive.

Yeah, that hasn't really been working out for us.


This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but there are some implications to IT. May running malware removal tools (or antivirus software in general) be theft? Was the malware planted by a government agency? By your government? Under a warrant? Better don't touch at all?

(The entire matter is highly absurd.)


This is the interesting statement to me:

> “But something is left on your car — even if you know it’s the police that are tracking you, you have an obligation to leave it there and let them track you?”

If you can compel someone to leave surveillance on private property, where does this precedent make a distinction. Could they leave surveillance cameras in your home and compel you to leave them there?


At this point how does the 5th not play into this?


At least one Justice gets it. The original judge shouldn't have issued the second warrant. First of all, what law was broken by remove the legally placed device? (The fact that it is different than a consumer device sounds be immaterial) second, isn't possession 9/10s the law? It is on his car, he should have a right to remove it. I would also be concerned with the police planning an active device on the car. This will definitely set a dangerous precedent.


Lots of hypotheticals, fun reading here.

My thought: Isn't there something about bearing witness against yourself? In America you're not required to do so. Isn't removing a tracking device something like pleading the 5th?

Others suggest you should return it to the police, but it seems to me there are way better approaches to that than handing it over.

Its a tracking device, right? They're going to find it, wherever you put it (except in a locked metal cabinet of course).

So leave it by the side of the road - they'll see it quit moving, find it, assume it fell off. Maybe try again, put it back on your car.

Next time, maybe leave it outside town in a muddy drainage ditch? Imagine the sap who has to go in there to get it.

All sorts of fun could be had. Leave it in a bank lobby. In Victoria's Secret under the discount table. In a trash can at the zoo. Behind the Police station where they keep the idle tracking devices. In an abandoned building. Under a parked police car.

So many better ways to deal with this problem, it could hardly be called a problem at all. Its a challenge!


Installing the tracking device requires a warrant, meaning it's classified as a "search," not as testimony. It's 4th Amendment territory, not 5th Amendment.

If removing the tracking device is pleading the 5th, then putting the tracking device on at all would be a violation of the 5th Amendment. You can philosophize a testimonial aspect into almost anything, but the courts take a more narrow view of what gets protected by the 5th.


To continue hypotheticals, once you know its there it becomes a voluntary act to continue. You have to continue to (allow) reporting of your location. That sounds more like 5th territory.

Anyway I see its not speech, so not testimony.


Disgusting abuse of power manages to catch a criminal. Is that our only metric for success now? Putting people in prison? Might as well shred the constitution, apparently we're ready to burn everything it stood for to prevent people from getting high.

I know I sound dramatic but it is honestly impossible to overstate how damaging to privacy rights and how much horrific police militarization can be directly and indirectly laid at the feet of the war on drugs.


Worse is the whole guilty until proven innocent scenario the media (and our society) has created. All it takes is being a suspect once to have your life turned inside out. For years people will suspect you of whatever horrors were committed by someone else.

The founding fathers are rolling over as they say if they heard where this country has gone.


You can't say that media and public shame are worse than the abuses of the criminal justice system. Your life may get turned upside down if you are simply accused of some crimes (especially sexual crimes), but you may very well bounce back.

Getting rightly accused of possession of light drugs and ending up in prison is a much worse outcome, and it happens to many, many times more people. And unlike the celebrities that usually fall on the wrong side of public opinion, most people who are absurdly put in prison for petty crimes will never bounce back, since they don't have the resources (money, social circle) to do so.


How is actually committing a crime and going to prison somehow worse than being wrongfully accused and affected for life?


Well, first of all it's a matter of numbers. Maybe hundreds of people's lives has been affected by being accused of a crime and being judged by the public eye with a presumption of guilt (some of these people may be guilty, some may not).

However, hundreds of thousands of people are suffering from vastly over-exaggerated punishment for minor crimes. Even more, the current political climate suggests that some of what these people did should not have been illegal in the first place (e.g. Marijuana use and distribution). Worse still, there is discretionary, racist enforcement of many of these laws, disproportionately affecting some communities and not others.

Individually, suffering from being falsely accused of a crime is much worse than being punished excessively for a crime you did commit.

But overall, people losing jobs and status is a much smaller problem to society todyay than excessive enforcement of minor crimes.


The crime is irrelevant. The discussion is whether you are guilty or not as an individual. If you willing commit a crime (regardless of how you feel about the law) then you are rightfully punished.

The problem is when you're innocent and still get punished anyway.


Well, if you stole a pack of gum and are executed for it, that's still a problem, even though you're technically guilty.

And again, in the real world, there are maybe hundreds of people suffering public outrage even though they are innocent, and there are tens of thousands of people who are serving extremely harsh sentences for minor crimes. The first is regrettable, the second is a major societal issue.


If you're guilty then you can disagree with the sentencing but it doesn't change the fact that you did the crime. Being considered guilty (by the courts or public) when you're actually innocent is far worse.

The US justice system is built on this foundation of letting the guilty go if it means avoiding a single innocent from being wrongfully convicted. Now you might say that social outrage isn't a big deal but considering the permanent nature of the internet and pervasiveness of social media, it's the same branding as a ex-con, if not worse since govt records at least have some controls on who can see them.

I agree that criminal sentencing and prison reform is needed, but that's a different discussion compared to how we treat the innocent.


Impacts on life from prison that are independent of guilt or innocence? Now it may make them more /deserving/ but it would be worse for the guilty party.

Granted it may be better for society (may because nothing stops the law from being messed up) so the question is worse for who?


The entire question is about guilt, not prison. Being actually guilty is very different from being innocent.


We have no way of knowing that the police didn't plant the evidence to save face and justify the warrant. Shit like that's happened before. There are plenty of cases of people going to jail and being much, much later exonerated and there are cases of being framed by police. We don't know how many more people are rotting in jail who are completely innocent.

I mean, sure, it might not be likely, but the point is, these police were willing to do unscrupulous things to catch the guy, so how do we know?


That's beside the point. The parent comment was saying that being rightfully guilty is worse than being innocent and assumed guilty because they disagree with the severity of the crime.

To me, being innocent yet treated as guilty is far worse, and in fact the US justice system holds that as a core principle.


Agreed. People who willfully commit crimes know what they are doing is wrong and can get them in jail or worse. Those around them and before them have likely been caught before.


Let's agree that they're both bad.


>Getting rightly accused of possession of light drugs and ending up in prison is a much worse outcome, and it happens to many, many times more people.

Can we just agree that both are a perversion of our justice system?

Blackstone's formula, "Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer" was very influential do the people who designed our initial legal system. The reason it is important is that if innocent people believe they will be prosecuted unjustly, they have no incentive to stay innocent. This of course will turn us into a lawless society.

https://twistingtruth.wordpress.com/better-10-guilty-men-go-...


But public opprobrium for a presumption of guilt is not a part of the justice system.

Also, the prevalence of this problem you are raising is extremely small in reality. The opposite is still much more likely - people who are guilty of various crimes who escape unpunished both by the justice system but also from public scrutiny.


"University of Michigan law professor Samuel Gross led a team of experts in the law and in statistics that estimated the likely number of unjust convictions. The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences determined that at least 4% of people on death row were and are likely innocent. Gross has no doubt that some innocent people have been executed.[18][19]"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrongful_execution

It seems small unless you are one of the 4%, that's just direct affect to the individual and their family. The indirect effect to you and me is lawlessness.

"It is of more importance to the community that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt should be punished; for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world, that all of them cannot be punished....when innocence itself, is brought to the bar and condemned, especially to die, the subject will exclaim, 'it is immaterial to me whether I behave well or ill, for virtue itself is no security.' And if such a sentiment as this were to take hold in the mind of the subject that would be the end of all security whatsoever"

- John Adams, Defending British soldiers charged with murder for their role in the Boston Massacre

For the record, I think it's a travesty that people get thrown in jail for petty crimes, or that petty crimes in general have become felonies, sold by politicians who want to appear "tough on crime." I don't think it serves either purpose to try to rank them.


The extensive public shaming for sexual assault exists because the legal process is incredibly reluctant to investigate or prosecute it.


It’s also very difficult to prove in the vast majority of cases.


> Disgusting abuse of power manages to catch a criminal. Is that our only metric for success now?

looking back over the years, from the outside, I think that's been the american attitude all along.


I'd like to hear more about this if you don't mind expounding on it some. I realize that in a certain light that's how it looks (I'm no stranger to a lot of what used to be called conspiracy theories, including the long history of illegal surveillance) but honestly it's always looked to me like the powers that be, in America, genuinely try to operate in a benign fashion. I realize that's not the same as operating in a legal or legally spirited fashion, but I also don't see it as flagrantly hypocritical enough to warrant the cynicism you've presented.


While there is no catching a criminal in this situation. Asset forfeiture is abused. This is where police take items, usually cash, and keep it. There is no trial, just a seizure of property.

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/12/1/16686014/p...

It's a good example of what I mean. There are others, I'm just not going to post them all. The police seem to optimize for stats and profit. And the cities/counties/state are on board. That's why we see red light cameras too. There are also documented cases of tweaking yellow light times in order to increase the number of tickets sent for running red lights.

The police don't seem to be here to protect and serve anymore. Like most things in America it's all about appearances and money.


The new doctrine is escalation of force to compliance. I have that info from public court, on the record.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21603136

Protect and serve died decades ago.

Today, people literally die at the hands of police for errors, questions, mistakes, and failure to demonstrate blind compliance. <---that is no joke.


I just recently saw the video of the guy picking up trash with a claw/grabber and being told to drop his 'weapon'. Several police showed up to stop this threat from cleaning his property. Luckily though, no one was shot, and the officer that started it all resigned.


I got lucky in the 90's. Ended up in holding for a few hours. Officers escalated a fairly benign scenario into me getting roughed up.

They delayed court many times, while trying to make their poor case worse.

I took it to trial, won, and those officers were gone.

Things are way worse now. Be careful.

The attorney I had filled me in. The prosecution presented escalation of force to compliance at my trial.

Not doing what they say can escalate to death. The initial event can be ANYTHING.


This is a fair criticism, and in line with the comment I replied to, but I still don't know if I agree with the overall sentiment of cynacism. While I'll give you the leaks about Prism/Five Eyes/Mail Espionage (the original government surveillance!), etc. the same documents are in line with what a pattern of being motivated by a fear of being unprepared to defend the greater society from upheaval would look like. Obviously metric gaming is the self serving side of that desire, and I'm being a bit of a devil's advocate here, but a department that doesn't receive adequate resources can't perform its function adequately. At the same time, American justice (I don't know much of other systems) has a long tradition of not just being a government product. Our system is designed to be corrected, lawsuits are easy (if funded) because the (ideally) other side of productive authoritarianism is civil resistance (physical sure but also legal punativism). I realize that these aren't reasons to not be cynical of our LEO organizations, but I guess that's why the cynicism seems strange to me, it's also not a reason to doubt the overall outcomes of the justice system. Whistleblowers (and their checkered history sure), civil disobedients (looking at you MLK and Malcom X), plain old litigants (gay marriage) are the counter balances to the sometimes hostile nature of the bureaucratically empowered entities in the American government. Is the system perfect? Obviously not, maybe not even optimistically close, but it's certainly not something indicative of a populace motivated purely by metric performance from my perspective.


>> in line with what a pattern of being motivated by a fear of being unprepared to defend the greater society from upheaval would look like.

There were, and still are, plenty of horrible people, probably worst ones in the whole of history, that were doing such things with good intentions.

Also American, or commonwealth justice system, from outside perspective looks like a farce - mostly due to jury system. Based on emotions, not facts - although i do have very high respect for some of your judges.

The combination of private prisons, lobbying, police getting slap on the wrist for the abuse of powers and corrupt government makes USA looks absolutely horrible abroad.


I’m not sure anyone is really engaging you here, so let me give it a go.

Three years ago, I was you. I thought I wasn’t blind to the problems in the US, but that we fundamentally had a solid system that did its best. Insofar as racial injustice permeated the system, that was a product of racist cops/prosecutors, but a problem that would solve itself as better, younger people, with fewer prejudices, slowly rotated in. I realized I was wrong after Trump became president.

Not the way you might think, though. It wasn’t the series of stories of the things Trump did (and does) that showed me how wrong I was. It was the stories about the things people conveniently started blaming on Trump. Now that we had a legit villain in the White House, the press started dredging up horror stories—but as often as not, from before the administration took power!

So I started reading. And I read about how qualified immunity means cops can do anything to you as long as a court hasn’t previously ruled is unconstitutional. I read about how courts will not decide on constitutionality if they don’t have to—meaning that finding qualified immunity means that the constitutionality wouldn’t be ruled on, leaving the act legal!

I found out that prosecutors will charge defendants with absurd numbers of crimes that they know they can’t prove in order to force a plea deal, because they know the vast majority of defendants can’t afford the legal representation to avoid conviction.

I found out that if you do have means of hiring competent counsel, it is not unheard of for the government to freeze your assets, alleging they proceeded from your crime, so you can’t pay for your defense.

In other words, I found out the US criminal justice system is a giant machinery that takes in people and spits out shattered lives, and that your best hope in life is that its Eye of Sauron won’t turn to look at you.

So how did it get that way? I’ll propose three theories and hopefully explain why the last one is the one I subscribe to.

First, the American people may just be evil. But I don’t buy that, because nations aren’t evil, and everyday people just want to get by. Also, they live under this system; it’s a particularly stupid sort of evil that harms itself.

Second, the American people are oblivious. This one is true, but insufficient. By a “hilarious” cultural “accident”, the vast majority of the system’s horrors fall on the powerless and the poor (by "coincidence", minorities, particularly African American); the rest of society tends to live in a reasonable world. However, that doesn’t explain why things are bad for the victims; cops and prosecutors should be no more likely to be evil than the rest of the population, and yet they are the ones turning the gears of the meat grinder.

Third: the system structurally encourages the behavior. That’s the one everyone is arguing for. Measuring conviction rates (how insane is that?), needing to be seen as tough on crime, those provide the push. Then, removing the guardrails of prosecutorial accountability (prosecutors are almost never sanctioned, even in egregious cases of misconduct) and police restraint leads to the rest.

We are putting good people in a position where the only rational thing to do is to destroy lives to make a number go up, and we remove or don’t enforce the rules that would give any semblance of fairness. Inevitably, the most successful ones will be the ones operating outside the expected rules. As for the ones who refuse, their motivations don’t matter; the system will grind them down as surely as it will grind down its other victims.


I would add a factor to that - America, in a mythic sense, does not have a good relationship with authority. Perhaps for historic reasons, it is not a country where authority is really respected... and so I think, there is a bit more expectation of authority being abused by those who have it than in countries where people in positions of authority are expected to hold themselves to a higher standard.


> honestly it's always looked to me like the powers that be, in America, genuinely try to operate in a benign fashion

Chomsky has a good point about this, that often the most heinous crimes in history have been done with a genuine belief that they are done for good. So, intentions should play a limited role in your judgment of someone's moral outcome.

On the other hand, there have been clear cases where the powers that be in America have gone to violent extremes to protect their interests. Some major examples would be the southern slave holders going to war with the rest of the country to protect their 'right' to hold slaves. Or large industrialists getting help from the army or national guard to stop large scale protests and strikes. Or COINTELPRO, where the FBI used infiltration, blackmail and even assassination against the civil rights movement.


Or even international interventions like:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1954_Guatemalan_coup_d%27%C3%A...

Where USA destabilized 3rd world government for profit of fruit company.

USA was never a "good guy", they were, and still are, just a lesser evil - especially if compared to soviet union, or now - china.


This was covered in popular culture most famously by The Wire, written by retired police beat reporter David Simon, it's called "juking the stats", each police district is judged by different crime stats, and promotions are based on those stats, so naturally everything evolves to optimized for better stats. Not only that, on the judicial side in America over the past 50 years, funding has not kept up with the increase in population so there is an extreme pressure on prosecutors to not go to trial, add to this the political nature of the office and American prosecutors are under pressure to keep up their 95% conviction rate, this is done by going hard after those least able to afford an adequate defense and "laddering", adding on every single conceivable charge so that defendants will plead guilty to a smaller number of charges in exchange for some charges being dropped and not inconvenience the state with an expensive trial by jury. This is covered pretty well by season 3 of the Serial podcast.


> each police district is judged by different crime stats, and promotions are based on those stats, so naturally everything evolves to optimized for better stats

I thought Russia was pretty far on the scale of messed up for having that system, but apparently it's up there with the freedomland.

Judges here like the wording of ‘there's no reason to doubt the testimony of the officer’, but how can you not doubt it when the police has an interest in the outcome—by design, at that.


A great, empirically based, comprehensive look at the devolution of criminal justice in the U.S. can be found in "The Collapse of American Criminal Justice" by the late criminal law scholar William Stuntz.

TL;DR: The trend started nearly 200 years ago, though for various reasons it accelerated in the mid 20th century.

Some reviews:

"The book is eminently readable and merits careful attention because it accurately describes the twin problems that pervade American criminal justice today―its overall severity and its disparate treatment of African-Americans. The book contains a wealth of overlooked or forgotten historical data, perceptive commentary on the changes in our administration of criminal justice over the years, and suggestions for improvement… Virtually everything that Professor Stuntz has written is thought-provoking and constructive... Well worth reading." -- Justice John Paul Stevens, New York Review of Books

"This volume is exceptionally rich, insightful, provocative, and well-written. It is bound to have great influence on academic thinking, and perhaps in time on the criminal justice system itself... Stuntz's book will repay much closer scrutiny than I can give it in a review… [An] important book." -- Richard A. Posner, New Republic


Coincidentally, ~200 years ago is about when the modern concept of a police force originated. Make of that what you will.


This looks like an interesting note, I'll seek it out and read it.


Yes, let’s take an outlier and extrapolate that to a universal. There are bad people everywhere and in America there are a lot of tools to discourage and identify that behavior.


Outlier? Well that depends on a lot of things - social class, colour, gender, religion, position on the environment etc. What looks like an outlier to you may not be an outlier to lots of other people.


Police abuse is not an outlier, it's a horrifying reality that many people face.


>Is that our only metric for success now? Putting people in prison? Might as well shred the constitution

You just threw that straw man straight down a slippery slope.

>apparently we're ready to burn everything it stood for to prevent people from getting high

This falls under "punching Nazis". Do you want some guy going around punching people? No, of course not. But if he's punching Nazis, then hey, let him do his thing, man. Same logic here, except it's "tracking meth dealers".

>I know I sound dramatic

I was thinking "moral grandstanding"

I'm okay with the police catching a meth dealer and putting him away. Good job. Keep up the good work.


What straw man? What slippery slope? That's literally what's happening here, and it's the argument you're making: "this man is a meth dealer, so the ends justify the means".


If we permit police to develop a taste for abusing meth nazis, they might turn it into a hobby and start abusing people like you and me too.

There can't be any exceptions when it comes to holding law enforcement accountable.


Punching that Nazi makes him go viral and gives his movement clicks.


Soon:

"Indiana man charged with theft for removing drugs planted by police"


"Deputy Attorney General Jesse Drum argued that the deputies had not acted in bad faith"

Is it typical for DAs to have lacking judgement? I know we hear about the bad ones but whenever any kind of insane police stunt appears in the media the DA is always on the police's side. I thought the judicial branch was supposed to be separate and neutral from the executive branch.


DAs are in justice, which is part of executive.

Courts are in judicial.


Oh. Okay. That's confusing.

Why aren't DAs part of the Judical branch? It seems like they are a key part of our justice system.


Because the US system is adversarial. DAs work with the police to try and convict people. DAs are often very politically motivated in their decisions of who to prosecute and for what charges (throwing the book at people).

Judges are independent from that. They’re supposed to act as a check against the excesses of the DA office.


The DA is in the judicial branch?


> In most U.S. state and local jurisdictions, prosecutors are elected to office. On the federal level, district attorneys are, in effect, members of the executive branch of the government; they are usually replaced when a new administration comes into office.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/prosecutor


Is it not? It's the lawyer appointed by the public.


Not an expert, but I'm pretty sure the DA is part of the executive branch.


By this logic, with a simple warrant, the police could place a big, obvious microphone in the middle of your living room, label it "Police surveillance mic", and you would be forbidden from removing it.

I find that much more troubling than any technicalities around 'did he know it belonged to the cops'. Just how much obedience can a simple warrant coerce out of supposedly free citizens?


Just stick an Amazon or Google logo on it and people will buy it and place it themselves..


But that also lets me order more Doritos hands free!


I wonder if you could eat doritos hands free too? Could you have a dorito launcher that would hit your mouth every time?

On the other hand, it might be risky to combine voice command with dorito's launch since they both use the same orifice for I/O.


I eat Doritos and Cheetos with chopsticks. It keeps the flavoring detritus off the fingers.


If you could, you could order it hands free from your speaker.


Ha! Bravo


> [Deputy Attorney General Jesse Drum] said trackers placed by the government under a warrant are distinct from those placed by private citizens. Removing a device from a car where it has a legal basis to be “deprives the police of its use,” he claimed, and constitutes a crime.

That argument doesn't make sense if the suspect doesn't know that it belongs to police. Presumably, the suspect wouldn't have known in this scenario, and chances are a meth dealer has non-law-enforcement entities after them in addition to the police. It could've just as easily been a disgruntled "customer" or competing dealer who placed the device.

If I see a tracking device on my car, it's getting removed. For me, that'd mean contacting the police and asking them to look into it, but I'm sure plenty of people would simply remove it themselves. Why would that be a crime?


Im a bit confused, at the point the police attached the unmarked tracking device on the suspects vehicle, did the suspect not obtain possession rights to the tracker? If not can the police just attach a device to you vehicle then charge you with theft immediately? How did the removal and subsequent storage result in theft if the device was already in the suspects possession?


All debates aside, who finds a police tracking device on their car and continues to maintain a large stash of meth and paraphernalia?


Someone who's very addicted. Addiction clouds judgement on ways that are very hard to emphasize with.


Let’s check some scenarios: 1) Police puts a mic inside your house, you step on it, and destroy it. Is it ok or not?

2) Police puts a mic on a guy who comes to your house, you find it, and destroy it. Is it ok or not?

3) Police puts a nano-mic (nano-gps) on you, you find it, and destroy it. Is it ok or not?

My answer to all of the above is that anything put on your property without you knowledge is up for grabs and destruction without further notice. Hour, car, or body is irrelevant.


In #2 the object is in your guests possession, not yours. So,no, you can't destroy it. In the other two cases, yes, I believe it is in your possession.


If someone puts a car or a body on your property, do you destroy it?


If someone dumps a trash on your property do you take it out?


A cat? At some point is have it towed. A body? Is call the police. Some small object? Is probably throw it away.


There is a law in South Africa called "Die Mandament van Spolie" or otherwise "spoliasie". It is not the same as spoliation in English; spoliation is the spoiling of evidence.

Spoliasie, however, means that you can't take away an existing right, an existing usage by someone, without somehow proving through the process of the law that that person is not entitled to that right.

A good example of this is an access gate used by multiple people. If you change the lock or remote, and someone else uses the gate—rightfully or not—then you are at risk of transgressing this feature of the law. Interestingly enough, there has been a case where the gate was electronic and a case where the gate was manual and in the two different cases the judges actually ruled differently in the two cases. One case of changing access credentials without giving access to other users was "spoliasie" and one wasn't—obviously also complicating subsequent interpretation of the law.

In fact, since you cannot take the law into your own hands, a thief could theoretically after having stolen your car and if you take back the car somehow, sue you for spoliasie. The key here is that the police is supposed to go and apprehend the suspect and bring back your car.

Of course, practically, such a case would never go to court. But before you think the "theory" of this is crazy, consider this: How do you know who has a right to usage of which items and personal properties? In fact, maybe you lent the "thief" your car (and maybe the "thief" is even your friend) and suddenly you decided you didn't like this friend anymore and called the police and told them this person stole your car. Maybe it's a silly example, but the point is that it's tricky to just impede existing usage without proper consideration.

The principle is that an existing right should be respected until shown to be an unlawful usage and hence not a valid right. By the way, IANAL.



The real problem here is that the police and courts can charge people with frivolous crimes like this and there are no consequences on their part. This poor guy now has to hire a lawyer, waste his time and money, go through the court system and hopefully get this thrown out. If the judges, prosecutors and police were held accountable maybe things like this wouldn't happen, but it won't be in my lifetime.


I agree with the vast number of comments about how unjust this is and I strongly suspect the police messed up by applying for the house search warrant using such a flimsy charge, instead of, I dunno, maybe just applying for a warrant to search his home using the same CI who got you the car warrant? Still wrong, but at least less dumb.

That said, if you find a GPS tracker on your car, which you take off and keep in your house full of drugs, it might be a bit late for you. I'm not suggesting the police used the GPS tracker to locate him, but who would keep a device like that, even if you were fairly* sure it was off? Park next to a city/police/firefighter/EMS vehicle and stick it over there. Or just chuck the thing on the side of the road and be done with it.

This is a fairly rural area, but I suspect in a larger city the police wouldn't even need a GPS tracker to maintain a rough idea of your comings and goings. They'll just scan the license plates ~20+ times a day as various police vehicles drive by, and use that data to build a map of your travels.


If you find something like that, you put it in a box and mail it back to the police.

Be sure to include an invoice with a hefty charge for shipping and handling.


>Besides, Keating said, there was no indication that it belonged to law enforcement.

How do you know where to mail it?


Local police. If they send it back, you keep any paperwork and throw it away, since now you have proof that you tried.


Also mileage degradement due to extra weight and wind resistance.


Can the police now run up and strap a camera to my forehead, compelling me to leave it there, allowing them to observe my movements, and charging me with a crime for removing it?

I guess when this happens I have to drop it off at a police station. TIL


They can with an ankle monitor, the camera implies a more invasive privacy situation though.


A long time ago, there was this thing where businesses would mail you something that you had in no way asked to receive. They would assert that you bought it if you didn't mail it back. (The mailing came with paperwork asserting this.) I forget whether it was due to court cases or legislation, but that doesn't fly anymore.

I wonder if that provides any kind of precedent for this case?


So I guess just bake it in an oven then put it back?

Or if it's magnet mounted, clip it on the catalytic converter for a couple of trips.


A label reading “Property of XYZ Law Enforcement Agency. If found, please return” on the device, plus a failure to return it IMO is the bar to make a theft charge in this situation.


I'd make the argument that it was a gift; it was freely given and on my property. They knowingly transferred it to him.


Obvious solution, return it - stick it on a patrol car. They can chase their own tails.


Law enforcement considers the Constitution as damage to be routed around.


UK Security Intelligence Services, will use school reports, NHS records for surveillance purposes on everyone and have been known to carry out operations on primary school age kids, which the kids wont know about until later on in life.


Wonder if an argument is to be made that this is entrapment


I would make the argument that it was a gift.


sounds like a good time to trade out your vehicle for something else, a rental maybe.


all the evidence should be inadmissible


Put a faraday cage around the tracker instead


To ‘protect it from rain and road debris’ of course /s




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