What to do if Maryland State Police Question You About Your Guns
Maryland – -(AmmoLand.com)- Several Maryland attorneys commented on the recent reports of private citizens being questioned by the Maryland State Police regarding the firearms they currently own. Please note that the following comments shall not be considered legal advice. In matters of law, always consult with your own attorney.
I think my position will be that the police do not have authority to do this. Any cooperation on the part of the homeowner will be voluntary. There is no regulation as of this date either by statute or regulation to permit the MSP to perform home inspections of registered or regulated firearms by MSP. Perhaps we will have to create a test case and sue them to stop this activity. I think that may be their purpose, i.e. to get some case law on the books.
Intrusions into one's home by law enforcement personnel still requires a warrant. A warrant requires a statement of probable cause by police as to why they need the warrant, then a judge must agree and sign same. Without a warrant a home owner may refuse the intrusion by police unless they are in pursuit of a fleeing felon.
If police are inside one's home and they see the fruits or instrumentalities of a crime then they may seize the evidence, even if their reasons for being in the dwelling are unrelated to the evidence seen in “plain view.”
It would seem that the MSP are attempting to expand the Code of Maryland Administrative Regulations (COMAR) regarding regulated firearms and checking up on people at random who they have some suspicion about. We should look for any pattern in these visits to see if my theory can be supported. Maybe these people would talk to us in strict confidence to see if there were any possible reasons why they attracted police attention. I think the MSP are attempting to carve out a regulatory or enforcement mechanism from the regs that essentially says,” If we have any authority to administer these laws and regs then we have to know what the data base is that we must regulate.”
If that is their goal then it is very sinister and is the “registration, regulation,” predicate to confiscation that we all fear.
Probably the strategy for Joe homeowner when faced with a random MSP check is to say:1) Why are you here? 2) Do you have a warrant? 3) If answer is NO then speak outside the dwelling to the MSP officers and be polite but firm. 4) If you have no warrant then under what authority are you here? 5) If homeowner feels threatened by the answers then have Joe say I will speak to you once I have contacted my attorney and only in his presence.
Other than this we can get in trouble for giving out legal advice or perhaps obstructing justice if there is a legitimate investigation.
You have posed an interesting question in what your members should do when the Maryland State Police come knocking on the door. To answer that question, there are basically two (2) trains of thought. First, is to be compliant and do what the police ask. The second, is to use the US and State Constitutions and their protection. Each has merit, depending on your personality and beliefs. Likewise, each train of thought has its disadvantages. While I cannot address every situation that may arise when the MSP come to a person's house, there are two (2) tactics that have been utilized by most police departments across the US; the search warrant and/or the knock and talk policy. Each individual should seek independent legal advice for his or her situation.
Under the search warrant, there is only one position that you can take and that is to allow the police to do their job or you may and will be arrested for obstruction. Basically, with a search warrant, there has been a Judge who has already determined there was probable cause to search for whatever the police may be looking for and issued the search warrant. It is not for you, at the time of the search, to try and challenge the validity of the warrant. In addition, sometimes when the police has a search warrant, it may be better to tell the officers where the items are that they are looking for to prevent total destruction to your house. Just a thought. Lastly, I would immediately contact an attorney.
The knock and talk policy use to be used during the course of an investigation, ie, solving a crime. It is a useful tool to the police and many crimes have been solved using this tactic. Apparently, now there certain members of the MSP that have decided, for whatever reason, to knock and talk with law abiding citizen's regarding their ownership of their firearms. There is nothing illegal about doing this. The police have every right to knock on your door and ask you questions. However, there is no law that states you must talk to them or answer the questions. Contrary, the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution protects the right against self-incrimination.
When the police first knock on the door, the initial reaction is to be submissive and/or compliant, to do as you are asked and not question why they are there. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this reaction. However, what I would advise your members to do is to politely ask the reason why they are asking for this information from them or what the police are there to search for and why. If it is a legitimate investigation the officers will explain such. If the officers are there for a legitimate reason it is still optional to cooperate. It could be that they are trying to see if you have information about a crime that you may have witnessed or an accident or if you saw something that may be useful. There are a variety of legitimate reasons.
On the other hand, if the officers are there for what is not a legitimate reason or does not appear to be a legitimate investigation, I would politely ask for the officers name, badge number and unit. (In addition to obtaining the other information you suggested in a previous news letter). I would tell them that you need to contact an attorney to speak with them first before answering anymore questions. Asking to speak with a lawyer usually ends the meeting. In fact, if they are there for a legitimate reason, they may even give you the name and number of the lead officer and/or Assistant State's Attorney for your attorney to contact.
Likewise, if they ask your members to produce a firearm and/or show the officers their firearms, I would ask if they have a search warrant. Usually such request is meet with intimidation and threats that they could go get one and then arrest you once they return. Threats to that extent, at least to my understanding, is against MSP policy. Furthermore, if they had enough probably cause in the first place, they would have obtained a search warrant prior to coming to the home and more likely than not, when dealing with a firearm, would not knock. It is an idle threat that is meant to make you compliant and has worked in a number of occasions. If the officers make such a threat, I would advise them to obtain a search warrant and politely ask them to leave. DO NOT get belligerent. If you give the officers a reason to arrest you, they will, and then a whole number of other factors come into play. Once the officers leave, I would immediately contact an attorney. If it is determined that there was no legitimate reason for the officers to be there I would write a letter to the Superintendent of the State Police, your state and federal senators and legislatures advising them of this harassment. If enough complaints are received the issue will be addressed.
Notwithstanding, the police do not have the right to enter your home without a warrant and/or being invited in by you or another occupant. If you do invite them in, you can ask them to leave at anytime. I hope that this helps.
Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore, Inc. (AGC), located in Marriottsville, Maryland. The Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore, Inc. was formed on July 1, 1944 when a number of World War II veterans in the Baltimore, Maryland area began looking for a place for recreational and competitive shooting. They organized with several other Baltimore area shooting clubs to form the “AGC” Visit: www.associatedgunclubs.org