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Police use doorknob swabs in search for guns, drugs

3009 Views 5 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Jeff Johnson
Summary: Police in Utah are using swabs taken from the doorknobs of homes, using an Ionscan to look for microscopic particles of drugs or gunpowder, and using the subsequent results to apply for search warrants. One person is awaiting trial on a charge of possession of ammunition by a convicted felon after police found a box of ammunition in his home.

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I find this notion, that they can swab your doorknob to test for narcotics or gun powder residue in order to justify a search warrant, to be very disturbing.

What's to prevent the police from canvassing a whole neighborhood, wiping every doorknob with a separate cloth to be labeled with the address, then getting a warrant for all those houses that produced positive results for either drugs or gun powder?

The doorknobs are, of course, on the outside of the house. If some stranger touches my doorknob while knocking to try to sell magazine subscriptions, and that stranger had touched illegal drugs earlier in the day, does that give justification to the police to search my house? I'd be hopping mad if that happened. I don't do drugs, but I also don't do totalitarian societies.

And guess what! My door knobs just might have gun powder residue on them. I own and shoot guns for fun and sport -- legally. I'm proud to be a 2nd Amendment supporter and activist. If the police swab my doorknob and find gun powder residue, they can lick the swab for all I care. That doesn't make me a criminal.

Somehow, this falls into the same category in my mind as no-knock warrants. This puts unacceptable power into the hands of the state.
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Well, Jeff, this could only be the tip of the iceberg. If this is upheld, then why couldn't the cops swab car door handles at drunk driving checkpoints? I believe it only takes a few seconds to run the test on the Ionscan. Or how about randomly swabbing car door handles on cars parked along the street or in public parking lots? Or a cop makes a turn signal stop and swabs the handle while asking for your DL, insurance and registration? I realize that right now it's a little farfetched to expect an Ionscanner in every police car now but with sufficient motivation I bet the device could easily be miniaturized. It wasn't reasonable to expect a computer in every squad car just a decade or so ago.

Along the same vein, sniffers are being developed for use at airports to detect explosive residue on passengers. Can it be that far in the future that not only will be be required to pass through magnetometers at public venues but sniffers also? All in the name of the War on Terrorism and the War on Drugs? After all, it makes the world safer for "the children".

Some folks might think I'm wearing my "tinfoil hat", but all we need do is look at the assault on our civil rights in the last decade.
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SO why is it disturbing? Sounds pretty unintrusive to me. I think a common problem now days is making unrealistic assumptions about what LEO's do to put together a case for a search warrant, or make bold assumptions about what officers will do if cases like these are upheld.

Officers dont have the time nor the resources to go house to house swabbing door knobs for meth particulates. And based on my limited amount of knowledge, I cant imagine any judge would sign a warrant based soley on a swab test. I dare to say that if you did some researech on these cases, you would probably find that there was information given to the officers prior that made them focus in on these particular houses; Like neighbors complaining about drug activity, or a Confidential Informant.

Maybe Im biased having a LE background, but I have seen too often neighborhoods get run down because of "drug houses", and have seen the good people of the neighborhoods loose faith in LE because their being told "there's nothing we(LE) can do". Well now they've found ways to do it, and now they're getting complaints because they're doing something about it..... :roll:

Regardless of what some may think, or assume, LE is still very reactive. They receive complaints (they dont create complaints), they collect evidence to substantiate the complaint, and then they act. As long as people continue to have the misconception that innocent peoples Civil rights are being violated, America will continue to lose the war on drugs and terrorism.

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OK, when LEO's receive a complaint, they investigate. But supposing they get a complaint that someone has a stolen item in his/her house. Do they immediately march into the person's house without a warrant? No. They get a warrant first.

The issue here is whether swabbing the doorknob of a person's home constitutes illegal invasion of the home. Personally, I think it does.

Little by little, we give up our civil rights in the name of security. I forget who (Ben Franklin, I think) said something like, those who give up freedom for security deserve neither freedom or security. When I was young, I read the book "1984" by Orwell. I thought at the time it was describing a loss of personal privacy that could never exist. I don't anymore.
TMG, I'm objecting to this technique of swabbing the doorknob in order to obtain enough probable cause to get a warrant.

The 4th Amendment says in part:
...and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation...
If there's probable cause, get the warrant. If there's no probable cause, don't come swab somebody's door.

Notice that the article does mention that the technique can be used for detecting the presence of residue that would indicate gun usage. I took my family shooting yesterday. I'll bet we've got lots of shooting-related residue on various surfaces. A swab (without my permission, of course) might lead the police to infer that I have guns, oh my! Of course, I own and shoot guns perfectly legally.

If Kerry gets elected and in 2006 signs on to U.N.-enforced global gun registration and eventual confiscation, don't you think that this technique will be used against gun-owners? Don't tell me that they won't do it in a way that would violate the Bill of Rights. They'll have trampled the 2nd Amendment, they'll happily trample the 4th. For that matter, they've already trampled the 1st, 2nd and 4th at a minimum.

Kerry is a bona-fide U.N. worshiper and Francophile. Of course he would reverse President Bush's position that was delivered to the U.N. by John R. Bolton (which was a reversal of Clinton's position) and will happily sign agreements to join international gun-control at the next meeting in 2006 of the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.

Don't think he won't. The House of Representatives would never (in its current mix) agree to this, but they're out of it. Only the Senate has to ratify international treaties. You saw last March what this Senate's view is of gun-control (considering there are at least 10 RINOs in the Senate). The Constitutional aspects of such a treaty won't bother way too many senators.

Even some U.S. Supreme Court justices have said in public speeches that international, particularly European legal sensitivities must now be taken into account when ruling on U.S. Constitutional issues.

This is not paranoia. Read the latest issue of NRA's America's 1st Freedom. It has a detailed analysis of the real threat that the U.N. is posing to the U.S. Constitution.

We, the People, should never trust our government with more power than was specifically granted to it in the Constitution.
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