Illegal Search

On May 10, 2003 two police officers entered the property of Laszlo Kilyen in the European Court of Human Rights case, Kilyen v. Romania. Kilyen lives in Murgesti. The two officers suspected Kilyen of car theft. While Kilyen was on a trip, the officers came to his house. At 4pm the officers came to his house and they entered Kilyen’s yard. They broke the main gate in order to enter. The officers found two cars in the Kilyen’s shed. The officers looked through it and they found several boxes with spare car parts in it. Kilyen’s neighbor saw the officers in the yard and he questioned them about their presence. The officers told Kilyen’s neighbor that they were carrying out a police investigation about a car theft. They also told the neighbor that the cars in Kilyen’s shed were not the stolen vehicles. When Kilyen returned from his trip, he made a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office against the two officers. He made this complaint on May 15, 2003. The complaint alleged that the police officers trespassed and violated Article 192 of the Criminal Code. Kilyen also argued that the officers searched his home without consent and without a search warrant. The officers argued that they believed Kilyen’s neighbor was the owner of the house. Article 192 of the Criminal Code states, “[e]ntering, in any way and without having the right, a residence, a room, a shed or a surrounding area of any of these, without the consent of the person using them, or refusing to leave these places at the person’s request, is punishable by a term of imprisonment of six months to four years. Kilyen also argued a violation of Article 8 which states, “there shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law,…” The European Court of Human Rights held that there was an interference with Kilyen’s rights. The officers violated Article 8 of the Convention. The Court also held that the respondent State is to pay the applicant. Do you think the court decided this case correctly? How does this case relate to the laws of search and seizure in the United States?

 

HUDOC

3 comments

  1. What the police officers did in this case sounds like a blatant disregard for the plaintiff’s rights. Regardless of whether the police believed that the plaintiff’s neighbor was the owner of the house, they did not have consent or a warrant to search the premises. In the U.S., if the police had a warrant and went into the wrong house by accident, they may be cleared under the “good faith” exception, which allows for these sorts of good faith mistakes. However, given that the police had no legal basis to break and enter into the plaintiff’s property, the court came out correctly in its findings. It also seems interesting that the police made this entry while the plaintiff was away. If this was not a coincidence, that seems to make this search even more condemnable. People have a right of privacy, most preciously in their homes, and the police cannot disregard that right without a reasonable basis to do so.

  2. The actions of the police officers in this case cannot in any way be deemed lawful. There was no emergency that needed responding to in which the police may be seen as justified for entering the property without the consent of the owner. This was just a mere allegation of car theft, which could have been handled once the plaintiff was home to give proper consent. If consent was denied, then I feel that the officers could have found other lawful means to go about obtaining the information they needed. However, entering a person’s property, breaking the plaintiff’s gate and informing the plaintiff’s neighbor that the plaintiff was suspected of car theft goes against the plaintiff’s privacy and due process rights. I feel the Court’s decision in this case was appropriate.

  3. I agree with everyone’s comments above, and I believe that there was a blatant violation of the plaintiff’s rights in this case. This was definitely a case of illegal breaking and entering. Since there was no emergency, the plaintiff was not fleeing from the police, and there were no other exigent circumstances, then the police officers should not have entered the premises without a warrant when the owner was not home. In the United States this type of investigation would be deemed an improper search because there was no warrant or consent to enter, therefore, any evidence seized would be inadmissible at trial. Obviously, other countries have different laws, but I cannot imagine that what the police did in this instance is not punishable regardless of the country. I agree with the Court that the State should pay the applicant for the damage to his gate and for conducting an improper investigation.

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