Proposed Town Ordinance: No Warrant for Police to Enter Home to Bust Underage Drinkers

All they have to do is claim they have probable cause and no warrant is needed. They wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of obtaining a judge’s agreement.

I don’t know what the big deal is here with police wanting so badly to circumvent the 4th Amendment. If they truly have probable cause that a crime is being committed or has already been committed, what’s wrong with taking the next step in getting a warrant to authorize a search?

Is underage drinking in the minors’ own home that bad that it represents exigent circumstances such that obtaining a warrant would take too much time, would jeopardize any evidence, and therefore present an exemption to the 4th Amendment? Do the police have something to hide? Perhaps they don’t really have probable cause, and they just want an excuse to search someone’s house, hoping to find something incriminating. A local CBS affiliate reported:

A proposed ordinance in Montville, New Jersey could give police officers broad powers – including entering private property – if underage drinking is even suspected.

As CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported, the proposal has some people questioning just how far police should be allowed to go.

Residents value their privacy in the upscale community of Montville in Morris County. But the proposed ordinance could change all of that.

Police officers under the ordinance could search homes with probable cause, and without a warrant, if they suspect underage drinking.

“I am not in favor of them just coming into the homes, because there – other people have said – there are children that do make mistakes on various occasions, and that’s more of a parent responsibility rather than a police responsibility,” said Anna Marie Cecire of Montville.


…[S]ome 17-year-olds in Montville said the proposed ordinance gives police too much discretion.

“I just feel that it’s not really their business to be going into people’s houses,” said high school senior Brendan Zevits. “If you want to do that, you need to get a warrant.”

“Just coming in our houses searching – eventually, it’s going to turn into hunches and all that, and once you base it on a hunch, then it’s all downhill from there,” said high school senior Stephen McManus.

It wouldn’t take very much at all for a cop to “suspect” underage drinking. If they see some kind of get-together, and the attendees look young, that’s “probable cause” to a cop that underage drinking is going on in that house, and it’s all they’ll need in order to justify a warrantless search of the house.