I had a little chin wag with Brent Carlton yesterday. The president of comm2a.com (Commonwealth Second Amendment) and I discussed the case of Stan Sokolowski, a Lowell gun collector whose guns were stolen from his vault. The police investigation of the theft quickly became a police investigation of Mr. Sokolowski. Well, slowly, actually. The po-po interrogated Mr. S. for seven hours. Whilst checking out the crime scene, the cops found hand-loading supplies [allegedly] in excess of the Massachusetts Fire Marshall’s regs. They charged Sokolowski with illegal manufacture of explosives. Needless to say, the State yanked his firearms ID card; Sokolowski is now a gunless gun collector. Unarmed. So many important lessons here . . .

First, it’s a repeat of our last SDT: you are not the good guy and the cops are not your friends. Not even when they are. Even as they pull your fat from the fire, even during the course of a “routine” investigation, they can get all hinky about your firearms. Or just nose around generally and find something to use against you. And then revoke your gun rights.

This is especially true in Massachusetts, where vague yet stringent firearms safety storage laws punish anyone with a firearm that isn’t secured in a locked container (that must ALSO be secured) or under their direct control (i.e. holstered). Like the Bay Stater about to head to the range, but hadn’t put his guns into a container when the po-po stopped by to say hello (and didn’t believe a word he was sayin’).

If the police want to enter/search your house after a negligent discharge (heaven forfend), or any other issue short of a defensive gun use (or some other emergency) in the home, the answer is “No. Not without a warrant.” The neighbors’ wagging tongues are a far less dangerous eventuality than what could befall you during a police visit.

The police may, for example, see a gun safe full of guns; making you a “gun nut” to a prosecutor or jury. They may see an almost bottle of Jack Daniels, not knowing (or caring) exactly when it was drained. What looks to you like a law-abiding household can easily be painted as a den of iniquity.

By the same token, if the local constabulary is stopping by to discuss something seemingly unrelated to your activities, don’t invite them into your house unless you really want to. Mind if we come in? Well, yes, actually. What’s this about?

And if you do let the police in, don’t let them wander off. You never know what they might “happen” to see.

[Note: I don’t blame cops for their inquisitiveness. They’re just doing their job: busting perps. Chances are they don’t even know your full constitutional rights, much less worry about encroaching upon them. And you need to do your job: protecting yourself and your family from the possibility of legal “misunderstandings.”]

Of course, the other lesson here is STFU. Even though he was a victim of a crime—a view the Lowell police no doubt initially encouraged—Mr. Sokolowski should have never agreed to a police “interview” without a lawyer present.

And another: know the law. Ignorance is no excuse under the law. Don’t take the word of some self-appointed internet expert (ahem) on the firearms laws in your state. Read the actual statutes.

Still, the question remains: how should Mr. Sokolowski have handled the police investigation into the firearms theft? As carefully as possible. As a gun owner in a gun grabbing state, he should have known that paranoia was the only sensible option. That sucks but there it is.

38 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Don’t Let the Cops into Your House Without A Warrant

  1. Unfortunately, the terms “Massachusetts Resident” and “Gun Collector” are mutually exclusive.

    The historic significance of Mass in the revolution is uncontested, but what a fall to go from a independence minded, free-thinking, freedom loving population, to the…[seemingly] exact opposite now.

    -Richard

  2. “Chances are they don’t even know your full constitutional rights, much less worry about encroaching upon them.”

    I thought nearly every police department required a criminal justice degree nowadays?

    • A degree in C.J. is nowhere near enough to ensure that these people aren’t violating established constitutional rights. First, constitutional rights are always expanding / contracting due to court rulings. This means that unless the cop has a real desire to stay on top of developments, they are likely going to violate the constitution on a regular basis. Second, common police practices, state laws, and constitutional laws aren’t always coextensive. Take for example the shockingly common practice of cops arresting people and charging them with felony wiretapping because they recorded the cops in public while they were on duty. Take also the example of the CA open carry law, which ostensibly legalizes searches and seizures without any suspicion just because the person has a firearm on their hip.

      My policy is simple – the Soviets used to say “show me the man and I’ll show you the crime” because they had so many criminal laws on the books that everyone was a felon by virtue of the fact that they lived. America has over 11,000 criminal statutes and administrative regulations. I’m an attorney and I don’t know anywhere near how many laws I break on a yearly basis. Don’t invite prosecution by talking / consenting to search.

      • “This means that unless the cop has a real desire to stay on top of developments…”
        This is easy, disseminate that information thru their union, the FOP.

        “Take also the example of the CA open carry law, which ostensibly legalizes searches and seizures without any suspicion just because the person has a firearm on their hip.”
        Any state with a Duty To Inform in their concealed carry laws is the same.

        “Don’t invite prosecution by talking / consenting to search.”
        I’ve done the same thing, it doesnt always stop them. It may be easier for you because your an attorney, but last time I lost $1,000 because my car was impounded, and another $500 for a useless attorney who tried to pressure me in to taking a plea bargain. The ASA ended up dropping the charges after I rejected the plea and asked for a jury trial. Perjury charges were never brought against the Chicago PD officers who lied (presumably under oath) regarding probable cause/reasonable suspicion or for what they claimed they found.

    • In Delaware, the State Police require a Bachelors Degree, period. I have a friend that is fairly high up in the SP. He has told me that a CJ degree is not required or even preferred. He said that they will teach you the required CJ stuff in the SP Academy.

  3. he should have went to the police station with the info and give it to them there. No matter where you live the police do not “dust for fingerprints” on any of the TV crap for theft. not ever. they will give you a police report for insurance purposes and if they find your stuff, they will call you to come and get it.
    don’t believe me, look up how many outstanding felony warrents are open in your county. you will quickly see that there is no resources for that kind of investigation for what is likely some kid in the neighborhood looking for drug or booze money.

  4. I don’t blame the cops for their inquisitiveness. They’re just doing their job

    Well, I have to take issue with that statement. In fact, let me be the first to call “bullsh!t.” Gestapo fiends were just doing their job. The KGB guys were just doing their job. A whole bunch of cops have been just doing their jobs, too, but only if their job descriptions requires them to harass citizens and beat the sh!t out of black people. Sorry, the “just doing my job” excuse went out with the Nuremberg trials.

  5. I believe that 99% of the cops try to follow the rules, but if they want to enter your house you’re not going to be able to stop them.

    • Perhaps. But I have a good lawyer on speed-dial, along with a record function on my cell phone. “You have refused to show probable cause. I do not consent to this search.”

  6. Luckily the American police are nowhere near as bad as the Gestapo or KGB boogeymen creeping in the closet of history.

    Unluckily, the powers that be don’t give a shit about our well being or the values of our Constitution. If they did they wouldn’t have sent Airborne divisions to bully strong-willed Southerners.

    Police are referred to as pigs for a reason. Nothing will appease them except total submission…to their authority, not to the authority of the Law.

    • Just a suggestion on your use of rhetorical choices: when you want to show the evils of the over-reaching of federal government, do not use “strong-willed southerners” who created Jim Crow laws to disenfranchise African-Americans as victims.


  7. If the police want to enter/search your house after a negligent discharge (heaven forfend), a defensive gun use or any other issue, the answer is “No. Not without a warrant.” The neighbors’ wagging tongues are a far less dangerous eventuality than what could befall you during a police visit.

    Um, pretty sure that if you call up to police and say “I’ve shot an intruder” and then refuse to let the police in before they get a warrant – your going to look pretty damn bad. And I think that given the fact that you’d be essentially admitted to a crime the cops have probable cause (assuming the perp in in your house). Also, the warrant is not going to stop them form seeing the empty bottle of Jack, or anything else that might make you look bad.

    • Looking bad to the cops doesnt matter, by owning guns you look bad to many POs. And if you refuse to consent, and they decided to enter anyways, your lawyer can make a motion to suppress evidence, depending on the circumstances.

      • In the case of a defensive gun use though…

        911 – “what’s the emergency?”

        you – “there was an intruder, he had a gun. I was in fear for my life, I shot him. Please send help.”

        officer – “where is the intruder?”

        you (waiting outside your house)- “in my house”

        Officer – “may we come in?”

        you – “no, get a warrant first”

        Is that a position you’d want to have to defend yourself from in court? What if the intruder is still alive and dies while you refuse to let police in? I’d say your a murderer then…

        Besides, probable cause – you call in to report that you shot someone (which in and of itself is a crime) the police do not need a warrant.

        Protect and exercise your rights. Don’t be stupid.

        • Well this story was about someone whos guns were stolen, and you brought up several scenarios. In the case of a home defense shooting, as you said, its not going to matter. In the case of negligent discharge, theft, or just about anything else where you dont shoot another person, you can refuse entry. Even in the event of a self defense shooting, I would still say I don’t consent, not that it would make much of a difference.

        • Yes, but my comment was based off what Rober wrote:


          If the police want to enter/search your house after a negligent discharge (heaven forfend), a defensive gun use or any other issue, the answer is “No. Not without a warrant.

          Robert was saying ND, or self-defense, don’t let the cops in without a warrant; I think that’s a bad idea.


          In the case of negligent discharge, theft, or just about anything else where you dont shoot another person, you can refuse entry.

          That depends – I live outside of city limits so I can discharge a firearm all I want ( I don’t but I could), as long as the neighbors don’t complain. Most cities have ordinances against discharging a firearm within citiy limits. If you have an ND and your neighbor calls the cops reporting gun shots coming from your house – well, that’s probable cause.

          You also right, never, ever consent to a search. Even if they have a warrant, don’t stop them, but don’t give your consent.

        • never, ever consent to a search

          +1. It’s amazing that cops always find something illegal when they search, while I’m still looking for a Leatherman tool I misplaced last year.

    • If you shoot an intruder, the conversation with 911 should go like this

      Hello, a man broke in my house and I need police. Here is my address.

      Admitting on the phone that you did anything is a mistake. You are not required to provide a statement on the phone to 911 of what happened, just your name, address and the nature of the emergency. Anything else will be replayed at your trial by a thrilled prosecutor.

        • dispatch – “why do you need EMS?”

          you – “because”

          dispatch – “can you tell me the nature of the medical emergency?”

          you – “no”

          dispatch – “why not?

          you – “’cause I don’t wanna”

          Really, that’s the path you’d go down? You want to defend yourself from that conversation in court.

          I’ve never heard anyone recommend that you not advise the dispatcher that you were involved in a self-defense shooting and that someone was shot.

          At what point does your attempt to STFU make you look guilty of something?

        • as the saying goes, you can indict a ham sandwich, it doesnt matter what you do, they’ll make you look guiltily one way or another

        • @Adam,
          it’s easy, state your emergency and then set the phone down with out hanging up! you are not required to talk to an operator, as this would take your attention away from whatever situation that is happening in your AO.
          You don’t even have to say anything just call 911 and set the phone down.

      • @GS650G

        “and the nature of the emergency”

        Would “the nature of the emergency” not include the possibility that someone may or may not be bleeding out?

        • If your really worried about the bad guy bleeding out, buy some QuikClot. It would be a good idea to do anyways, just throw it in your range bag, just in case of a accident/negligent act.

        • C’mon – you’re in a corner, admit it. You have to tell them something. By all means figure it out in advance so you know what to say – but something has to be said especially if you’re requesting EMS, etc.

          You just don’t want to admit he got ya by pointing out the hole in your response.

    • You quoted incorrectly. “If the police want to enter/search your house after a negligent discharge (heaven forfend), or any other issue short of a defensive gun use (or some other emergency) in the home, the answer is “No. Not without a warrant.” The neighbors’ wagging tongues are a far less dangerous eventuality than what could befall you during a police visit.”

      • @DonWorsham

        I quoted correctly… I copied and pasted it so it would have been impossible for me to misquote.

        Robert amended the text to reflect my point.

  8. If your home is a “crime scene” (if you reported a crime there, then it is perforce a crime scene), the po-po have the right to enter and anything you leave out in the open (“plain view”) is fair game. Also, if someone is bleeding out, the rule of “exigency” permits the police to enter. BUT — entry and searching are two different things. If I drop some bastard in my hallway because he broke down my door, the cops have no business in any other room in my home. The scam they always pull is “can I use your bathroom/phone/kitchen sink/whatever.” If you hear a police officer say anything like that, the little “lawyer hairs” on the back of your neck should be standing at attention.

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