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  1. #21
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    Originally posted by BFDNJFF
    We will never know all the facts in this case, and honestly I hope the sob’s they busted get locked up for a long time and I am glad they found the drugs and heck for all we know the box was partially burning and they had to open it thinking there were smoldering items in it or they did break it open, but we well never know and I am glad they found it. If the people get off on some BS technicality then our systems of laws need some serious over halling.
    The violation of someone's civil rights is not "some BS technicality". It is a constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right.


  2. #22
    MembersZone Subscriber dmleblanc's Avatar
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    If it fell over and its contents spilled out, then it is covered under the plain sight rule.
    However, if it "fell over" 2 or 3 times...from the second floor...might be a problem.

    Seriously, I agree...I can think of no legitimate reason for it to have been opened....A person has a right to privacy in their own home...I can think of no better way to say "This stuff is private and no business of yours" than to lock it up in a strongbox.
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  3. #23
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    I have to agree with George and his assessment, not just because I know he knows his business, but the few classes I've had in this arena suggest the same.

    One caveat in Texas: the fire department owns the house that was on fire when they enter it to put it out. We can legally refuse entry to the homeowners until we deem that we are done our job. Granted we usually have the Fire Marshal's on scene by that time, and they're the armed individuals making that statement so we don't have to. As far as I understand they can check, open, and look at anything and everything in the house in looking for a cause. If something else is discovered that is illegal, they just call in the sheriff, as I said it's the fire department's house so they don't need owner permission, the fire department is the owner. I tried to dig up some case law to go with this, but I can't find any in a timely manner. Considering that to the best of my knowledge this is still the current legal standing, I'm guessing that no one has gotten the law overturned. Especially since I know of many times where drugs were found during the course of overhaul, hidden in walls, under beds, in boxes, etc, etc. And the convictions have all stood.

    But to agree with most everyone else, I wouldn't have opened something that looks like a lockbox, whether it was locked or not. People keep passports, jewels, cash, and other valuable or sentimental items in those things. I do. I wouldn't want to take the chance that the person then claims something was stolen out of it. See it, put someone next to it without touching it, have LE come in and pick it up to take outside. About the only thing we ever remove are drawers from a bureau or something, and only after asking the owners what ones they want us to bring out for them. The legal aspects of the fire service are black and white if you don't keep playing in the gray areas.

  4. #24
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    While I admit that I do not know TX law, I can tell you that a state cannot pass a law that violates a citizens basic civil rights. The right to an expectation of privacy is not thrown away because a person has a fire in their home. I agree that evidence or contraband found during the course of fire suppression activities would be fair game, there is no way a person could articulate that they were looking for a fire cause or fire extension in a locked box, briefcase or suitcase.

  5. #25
    Forum Member firenresq77's Avatar
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    I agree, if the box was secured, there was no reason to open it, unless it may have had something to do with investigating the cause of the fire.......
    The comments made by me are my opinions only. They DO NOT reflect the opinions of my employer(s). If you have an issue with something I may say, take it up with me, either by posting in the forums, emailing me through my profile, or PMing me through my profile.
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  6. #26
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    Originally posted by firenresq77
    I agree, if the box was secured, there was no reason to open it, unless it may have had something to do with investigating the cause of the fire.......
    No. There is still an expectation of privacy and you cannot, repeat cannot, open secured containers without consent or a warrant. Period.

  7. #27
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    No. There is still an expectation of privacy and you cannot, repeat cannot, open secured containers without consent or a warrant. Period.

    Quite simple in my area.

    Soon as the Fire Investigators believe they *may* have a crime scene, they withdraw, have a patrolman secure the property, and go find a judge to sign a search warrant.

    Whatever rights they may or may not have under "FD owns the property"...they don't risk going into that grey area. Get the warrant, they don't worry.

    It's hard to believe a locked box would often be seen as either an item needing overhaul...wooden dresser drawers...sure. A locked box that doesn't have any easy way for fire to get inside it, or even if conducted heat did penetrate, lacks the air supply to openly burn and re-kindle?

    It's hard to believe a locked box would often be seen as part of the origin & cause, at least what it's contents are.

    If you have a locked box wires coming out of it...um, I'm backing out of that area thank-you-very-much...for reasons that have *nothing* to do with it may be being a trigger device. And at that point it'll probably end up being investigated by a nice little remote controlled robot and a disruptor.

    If it was used as a weight in some Rube Goldberg contraption, don't need to look inside it, you just go, "Hmmmm, looks like someone set this up to fall on this to start the fire...I think it's time to go get a warrant." And as part of investigating the Rube Goldberg, you might end up opening the box...but by golly you now have a warrant.

    Fire Departments used to take pride in the quality of their overhaul job -- stripped everything out, put the trash in a one pile to wet down, put the salvaged stuff under tarps. Removed the wet wallboard. Yank out the carpets. Man, it was a thing of beauty what a good crew could do.

    We don't do it anymore. Because it's far more valuable to us to preserve the evidence in case this was a crime. And the insurance companies don't mind paying ten or twenty thousand more for ServiceMaster to come in a cleanup the mess and repair some extra water damage...if it lets them catch arsonists who used to get away with $250,000 claims.

    So you just overhaul what you must. Wait for the investigators before you dig up anything you'd like to but don't absolutely have to. Maybe even be willing to set up fire watches. I'd much rather have a good investigation knowing our fire watch will call us back in three hours to help wet down some hotspots...then to know we won't be coming back because we did such an excellent overhaul job there wasn't an ember or lick of evidence left!
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  8. #28
    Forum Member firenresq77's Avatar
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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI


    No. There is still an expectation of privacy and you cannot, repeat cannot, open secured containers without consent or a warrant. Period.
    Sorry...... I had 3 different things going through my head when I was typing that........

    Meant to say that if the box was closed and you didn't have to open it during overhaul or when searching for extension, leave it alone...
    The comments made by me are my opinions only. They DO NOT reflect the opinions of my employer(s). If you have an issue with something I may say, take it up with me, either by posting in the forums, emailing me through my profile, or PMing me through my profile.
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  9. #29
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    Explain one possible scenario where a FD would have to open a lockbox during overhaul or to search for fire extension. Just one.

  10. #30
    Forum Member firenresq77's Avatar
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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
    Explain one possible scenario where a FD would have to open a lockbox during overhaul or to search for fire extension. Just one.
    Not saying there is or would be for an actual secure, fire-proof/resistant lock-box.

    Now if someone puts a lock on a dresser drawer to use as a "lockbox", it's a diffrent story........
    The comments made by me are my opinions only. They DO NOT reflect the opinions of my employer(s). If you have an issue with something I may say, take it up with me, either by posting in the forums, emailing me through my profile, or PMing me through my profile.
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  11. #31
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    Originally posted by firenresq77
    Not saying there is or would be for an actual secure, fire-proof/resistant lock-box.

    Now if someone puts a lock on a dresser drawer to use as a "lockbox", it's a diffrent story........
    No, it's not. A lock indicates that someone has an expectation of privacy. The FD has no more right to violate that expectation of privacy than a police officer does. Unless that dresser is on fire, the FD cannot enter that dresser legally. It is a seprately secured compartment.

    It is evident to me that you have no screaming notion of what you are talking about. Go get some training on this issue and stop posting nonsense.

  12. #32
    Forum Member Weruj1's Avatar
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    I am in agreement with the others, it should not have been opened. Plain view, calling in the police. Also if it was some suspicious thing the SFM would also be called. We have also utilized the local "big city" FD to come in and help us as well through mutual aid as they have an FIU branch. We really have no right to be rumaging through anyones personal effects past moving/removing them if needed for salvage and overhaul.
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  13. #33
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    We really have no right to be rumaging through anyones personal effects past moving/removing them if needed for salvage and overhaul.
    Bingo!

  14. #34
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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
    "If you are where you're supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing, you are OK".
    That was the line I was trying to think of... I skimmed over it in your first post I guess.

    I think this sums it up beautifully.
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  15. #35
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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI


    No, it's not. A lock indicates that someone has an expectation of privacy. The FD has no more right to violate that expectation of privacy than a police officer does. Unless that dresser is on fire, the FD cannot enter that dresser legally. It is a seprately secured compartment.

    It is evident to me that you have no screaming notion of what you are talking about. Go get some training on this issue and stop posting nonsense.
    Just so I get this straight...... You are telling me I have no right to open a locked dresser drawer if it is smoldering??
    The comments made by me are my opinions only. They DO NOT reflect the opinions of my employer(s). If you have an issue with something I may say, take it up with me, either by posting in the forums, emailing me through my profile, or PMing me through my profile.
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  16. #36
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    QUOTE]Unless that dresser is on fire[/QUOTE]

    Halooooo.
    Psychiatrists state 1 in 4 people has a mental illness.
    Look at three of your friends, if they are ok, your it.

  17. #37
    Forum Member firenresq77's Avatar
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    Kiwi, my point was that George is reading into what I had posted and assuming things.......

    from when he said
    Explain one possible scenario where a FD would have to open a lockbox during overhaul or to search for fire extension. Just one.
    and I said

    Not saying there is or would be for an actual secure, fire-proof/resistant lock-box.

    Now if someone puts a lock on a dresser drawer to use as a "lockbox", it's a diffrent story........
    The comments made by me are my opinions only. They DO NOT reflect the opinions of my employer(s). If you have an issue with something I may say, take it up with me, either by posting in the forums, emailing me through my profile, or PMing me through my profile.
    We are all adults so there is no need to act like a child........
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  18. #38
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    Originally posted by firenresq77
    Just so I get this straight...... You are telling me I have no right to open a locked dresser drawer if it is smoldering??
    After this I am through with you. Your a little know-it-all who knows ZIP!

    Unless that dresser is on fire, the FD cannot enter that dresser legally.
    And, BTW, you have no "right" to do anything at a fire scene. You have a "duty" to protect property and to save lives.

  19. #39
    Forum Member firenresq77's Avatar
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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI


    After this I am through with you. Your a little know-it-all who knows ZIP!



    And, BTW, you have no "right" to do anything at a fire scene. You have a "duty" to protect property and to save lives.
    Did you take your cranky pills???? Did I get under your skin??? Add me to your ignore list, George........
    The comments made by me are my opinions only. They DO NOT reflect the opinions of my employer(s). If you have an issue with something I may say, take it up with me, either by posting in the forums, emailing me through my profile, or PMing me through my profile.
    We are all adults so there is no need to act like a child........
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  20. #40
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    Wow, what a heated topic (pardon the pun)

    I have always been told "if it aint broke, dont touch it, if it aint burning or smouldering, dont touch it" wise words from a fire investigator

    i honestly dont believe that much could be done with this case in a court of law. These fire fighters may have broken their duty and opened a lockbox, which may or may not have been locked, and stumbled upon narcotics. Why were they opening a lock box anyway? unless it was directly involved in the fire, in which case my understanding of money and drugs is that they burn quite nicely, hence no more evidence?

    Lets leave this one for the people who get paid to quabble over what is right or wrong, the courts

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