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Search Warrant Needed for Homeless Camper’s Tent?

Posted Wednesday, October 11, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

Do police need a warrant to search a homeless man’s tent even if camping illegally? Pippin was a homeless man, living in a tent on public land in Vancouver. Police officers approached his tent and requested that he come out. When he didn’t and officers heard noise inside, they lifted a flap of the tent to look inside and observed a bag of methamphetamine. He was charged with drug possession.

The Court debated three factors—the historical protections, the intimate details revealed from a search, and the implications of recognizing this privacy interest. The Court found that Pippin’s tent functioned as part of his private affairs worthy of protection from unreasonable intrusions. His tent and its contents fell among those “privacy interests which citizens of this state should be entitled to hold, safe from governmental trespass absent a warrant, according to the Court. Therefore, Pippin’s tent and contents are protected under the Washington Constitution.

State v. Pippin, 48540-1-II

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