This one really needs almost no comment. From the November 30, St. Petersburg Times:
KENNETH CITY — Council members caved in to demands from an angry crowd and delayed approving a neatness ordinance until officials explain every word of the 26-page document to Kenneth City residents.
In what was estimated to be the largest crowd to ever attend a Kenneth City Council meeting, an outraged group of residents railed at the proposal that would regulate the upkeep of both the exterior and interior of all property in the town.
The proposal basically sets standards for upkeep and appearance and gives town officials the right to enter homes. If the owner refuses to allow the official to enter, the town can go to a judge for an “administrative search warrant” to allow access to the interior of buildings. Violations would cost up to $250 a day.
Others said the council needs to explain every part of the ordinance to residents and that after that, the residents should be consulted about redrafting the new rule, if necessary, to tailor it to Kenneth City’s needs. As it is, the ordinance is a virtual copy of others in places like Fort Walton Beach and Belleair Beach.
Residents will get their chance to hear the ins and outs of the proposal…. The meeting is not only open to the public, but Kenneth City officials seemed to challenge residents to attend.”Let’s see if you all show up for a workshop,” [the town attorney] commented, adding he would go through the document paragraph by paragraph if that’s what the council wished.
And [a council member] said, “If you are not here, you have nothing else to say.”
Can you say, “unreasonable search and seizure?” As in:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
That’s the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, by the way. Has the town attorney who is quoted in the news story ever heard of it?
Notice that the news item says that other towns in Florida have similar laws? Here is what the City Code of Bellair Beach, Florida, says:
All buildings, structures and premises as set forth in this article are subject to inspection by the city manager or designee, where probable cause is shown to believe that a violation may exist. Upon presentation of proper identification and credentials to the owner, agent or occupant in charge of the property or premises, and securing oral or written permission from the owner, owner’s agent or occupant in charge of the property, the designee may enter on the property and make such inspections as necessary during all reasonable hours.
If permission for entry for the purpose of inspection of the property is denied, and no emergency exists, the city manager or designee may request the city attorney to procure a court order for entry to the premises.
I’m no expert on the subject, but something tells me that just because the law would require officials to get a court order, or an “administrative search warrant,” from a judge before forcing their way into your house, doesn’t mean that the law, and any such order, would not be a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Would any judge actually issue such an “administrative warrant” based on allegations of substandard “upkeep and appearance?”
And what is an “administrative warrant,” anyway? If it allows government officials to come into my house to look for, or at, things, then it is a search warrant as far as I’m concerned.
Sheesh. Don’t these people (I mean the town officials) have anything else to do?