Legal police search of abandoned property

At common law, a person who finds abandoned property may claim it. To do so, the finder must take definite steps to show their claim.

Squatters Claiming Ownership of Abandoned Houses a National Trend

For example, a finder might claim an abandoned piece of furniture by taking it to her house, or putting a sign on it indicating her ownership. Many jurisdictions have statutes that modify the common law's treatment of lost or abandoned property. In the context of intellectual property, abandoned property refers to the relinquishing of intellectual property rights by an owner, thereby allowing others to use the intellectual property without protest.

For example, an inventor who does not register a patent to his invention relinquishes the patent rights associated with his invention, allowing others to use his invention freely and without recourse.

Courts may have a difficult time distinguishing whether property is lost, mislaid, or abandoned. Typically, this is a question of fact, which means that the jury usually decides the issue. In general, items which are abandoned or lost will go to the finder, unless the find is made at an owner-occupied residence. Because the squatter is not a lawful occupant, society does not deem him or her to have a valid privacy interest in the residence.

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United States v. McRae , F.

Dodds , F. But if the person owns or rents the premises, a court may need to determine whether the person has legally abandoned the premises. It is certainly possible to abandon a dwelling. Although most abandonment cases involve personal property, such as a backpack tossed over a fence by a fleeing defendant, the authorities agree that it is also possible to abandon real property. Wayne R.

New Jersey v. Brown

Harrison , F. However, temporary vacancy and disrepair do not establish abandonment. Although it is possible to abandon real property for Fourth Amendment purposes, it is not easy. The mere fact that a residence is vacant is not enough. Likewise, the mere fact that a residence is in poor condition is insufficient. A one-time look at [the house] in its dilapidated condition would not justify the police entering it without a warrant because a reasonably cautious officer would only assume that the person who occupied the home did not maintain it as they should, not that they had clearly manifested an intent to relinquish their expectation of privacy in the house.

State v.

Tarantino , 83 N. This argument has no merit. The door was padlocked and the windows were covered, providing at least some objective indication that the occupant intended and expected the interior to be private. There is no abandonment if the owner or occupant of property intends to retain a privacy interest in the property.

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Case Law 4 Cops Article-Search Warrant Exceptions

Ongoing renovations do not establish abandonment. If a residence is unoccupied due to renovations, it has not been abandoned, even if there are no doors in the frames and no windows in the sills. To the contrary, the fact that work is being done on the residence shows a continued interest in occupancy. This reduced expectation of privacy may be particularly salient when considering searches by code enforcement personnel rather than law enforcement officers.

See Shapiro v. Frey v. Panza , F. What does establish abandonment? Although homes in poor condition or under construction are not necessarily abandoned, homes that are badly damaged, or that are left in extremely poor repair for protracted periods of time, may be deemed abandoned.