Warrant? I Don’t Need no Stinking Warrant!
- Wednesday, January 02, 2013
What would you do if a police officer came to the door of your home and demanded to be allowed inside? Would you ask to see a warrant? Or would you simply stand aside?
This was the situation that 23-year-old Joseph Batt faced on Tuesday, April 17, 2012. At the time, Joe lived at home with his parents, Tim and LuAnn, and younger siblings in Orchard Park, New York.
A few months earlier, the Batts had taken in LuAnn’s father, Fred, who had dementia and other chronic illnesses. On April 16, LuAnn had had a discussion with a relative about some of Fred's personal possessions.
On Tuesday afternoon, Joe’s mom was at a doctor’s appointment and his dad was on his way home from work, leaving Joe to tend to Grandpa Fred. When Joe saw two police cars parked in front of his house, he did not feel alarm, only curiosity about why they were there.
He approached the two officers, who were casually chatting outside their cars, and asked if there was a problem.
Lieutenant Joseph Buccilli demanded that Joe produce his driver's license, which Joe had left in the house. The officer then demanded to know his full name and date of birth. After answering the question, Joe again asked why the officers were at his home. Buccilli said they were there to perform a "welfare check" on behalf of adult protective services. He then demanded to be allowed inside.
“You do not have permission to come in”
The Batts have been members of Home School Legal Defense Association since Joe was a child, so he grew up reading about his Fourth Amendment rights in The Home School Court Report. Furthermore, Joe’s older brother, Dan, is a federal law-enforcement agent, a profession which the Batt family holds in high regard.
Joe respectfully refused Officer Buccilli’s demand to enter the home. He told the officer that his grandfather had just been seen by a nurse’s aide who reported that all was well.
Lt. Buccilli angrily told Joe that he didn’t need a warrant to conduct a welfare check. He said he would enter without permission and arrest Joe if he obstructed him in any way.
When Joe stepped inside to call his older brother on his cell phone, Lt. Buccilli followed him. “Please don’t come in,” said Joe. “I am making a private call. You do not have permission to come in.”
But the officer stuck his foot into the doorway and prevented Joe from closing it. He then pushed the door open and stepped inside.
Inside the home, one of Joe’s younger siblings finally reached Dan on the home phone and handed the receiver to Lt. Buccilli.
Lt. Buccilli announced over the phone that he didn’t need a warrant and hung up, saying that Joe didn't know the law and that Buccilli had a right to come in without a warrant.
“You should not pretend to know the law!”
The officer pushed past Joe and went into the next room to see Fred. He lectured poor Fred—who had been visibly upset by the commotion—about how he had the right to forcibly enter a home when checking on the welfare of an adult.
As Lt. Buccilli finally left, he told Joe that he would “inform adult protective services about [your] lack of cooperation.” His parting shot was, “You should not pretend to know the law.”
In the meantime, Tim and LuAnn Batt heard about what was happening and hurried home. By the time LuAnn arrived, there were three policemen standing outside her home, including the police chief.
The police were soon joined by an adult protective services social worker who said she had received a report of an adult in need of services.
LuAnn invited her inside, and explained that her father was in hospice care and was seen regularly by a nurse, social worker, and nurse’s aide.
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