On Oct. 2, an officer with the Brigantine Police Department told reporters that a 17-year-old boy from Brigantine had been arrested and is facing one count of burglary, among other charges. Citing an ongoing investigation, the officer implied that the juvenile is suspected in several other recent burglaries in the area.

According to a story in the Press of Atlantic City, detectives from Brigantine and Atlantic City and officers from the Atlantic County Police Emergency Response Team have been cooperating in a joint investigation into several burglaries in the two cities.

Law enforcement officers from all three groups took part in executing a search warrant of the young man’s home in the early hours of the morning — around 4 a.m. — on Oct. 2, which is somewhat surprising in a juvenile case.

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires that even searches accompanied by lawful warrants must be executed reasonably. According to law enforcement training provided by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, search warrants generally must be served between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. unless the officers can demonstrate a specific, reasonable cause for deviating from that rule. For example, if they know the suspect has been tipped off, they can lawfully serve the search warrant to prevent the evidence from being destroyed.

In this case it is unclear what the officers believed would justify searching what was presumably a family home at 4 a.m. Regardless, after the search they arrested the teen and charged him with burglary, possession of what officers assumed were burglary tools, and possession of a small amount of marijuana. It is likely that these were juvenile charges.

It is also unclear whether police still consider the teen a suspect in the other area burglaries. Although just over a week has now passed since the arrest, the Press has not reported any further charges against the teen.

When the suspect in a crime is a juvenile, it is essential for his or her constitutional rights to be vigorously protected. If there is the slightest doubt about the full lawfulness of an action by the police against a minor, that doubt should be resolved in the young person’s favor.

Sources: 

  • The Press of Atlantic City, “Brigantine juvenile arrested on burglary charge,” Wallace McKelvey, Oct. 2, 2013
  • Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, 4th Amendment RoadMap Podcast Transcripts, “Execution of a Search Warrant (I)”