“You think if anyone is going to break into your vehicle in Ybor, the last person you think, it’s going to be the cops.” – Matthew Heller, local whose care was broken into and ransacked by police.
Police in Ybor City (a popular night spot in Tampa), Florida can now apparently break into and search your car without having to either inform you or even get a warrant. Does this sound crazy to you? If it doesn’t, you’ve likely become desensitized by the ever growing police state in which we live.
Many people want to do whatever they can to help make the police’s job easier… but there is a point where that kind of thought process becomes dangerous.
We’ve reached that point.
The Tampa Police Department walked by Mr. Heller’s sealed and locked car when they thought they smelled marijuana. So they broke into his car, ransacked it and then left him a note of explanation.
“Sir, your car was checked by TPD K-9. The vehicle was searched for marijuana due to a strong odor coming from the passenger side of the vehicle. Any questions call Cpl Fanning.”
The Tampa Police Department believes this type of search to be completely legal. They also don’t believe that they have to pay for any damage incurred to the vehicles of innocent people. They found no drugs in Mr. Heller’s vehicle and never filed any charges or even questioned the vehicle’s owner.
“It was all sealed up, a parked vehicle in a private parking lot for a hip hop concert in Ybor. There were all kinds of smells, everywhere around here,” said Heller. He’s more unhappy with having his vehicle torn apart than he is with having it searched. “Disgusted, I’ve got my whole life savings in this truck. It’s like a marketing tool for my business to promote the air horns and everything. The horns weren’t working, all the electronics were ripped out.”
If I was Mr. Heller I would be more upset with having my rights violated and the police breaking into my vehicle without my consent. But I understand his anger at having his car destroyed – especially when he uses it for business. I think we should focus on the overreach of government power and the way the TPD treated Mr. Heller like a criminal before ever proving any wrongdoing. The Constitution guarantees us freedom from searches like the one performed on Mr. Heller’s vehicle.
Heller’s attorney agrees with me and says that the police department’s search of the vehicle is illegal. “It’s an illegal search,” Heller’s attorney said. “Usually if it’s some kind of unoccupied vehicle there has to be some level of exigent circumstance to justify searching a vehicle without a search warrant. Exigent could mean if there is a dead body inside, if there is a screaming child locked in the car, a dog but if the car is unoccupied there is no exigency to justify the search.”
Do you want to live in a country where the police/government can completely gloss over the 4th Amendment? There is a reason that we force the government to retain warrants before searching private property.
Tampa police acted unjustly and should be reprimanded for this illegal search. They should also be forced to cover the cost of the damages they incurred during their search. If we allow the government to use its power without restraint – we may as well be slaves to the state.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com