August 16, 2018

There is no statute of limitations on the Fourth Amendment

By Timothy R. Snowball Attorney

According to James Madison, “as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.” Property rights are one of the most sacred liberties that Americans possess, and one of the foundations of our Republic. For many Americans, their most important property is in their homes. As Sir Edward Coke noted in the seventeenth century, “The house of every one is to him as his castle and fortress.” Implicit in the right to own property is the right to dispose of your property when and how you wish.

Unless you live in Santa Barbara.

In Santa Barbara the City claims the right not only to enter and search your private home without a warrant, it conditions your ability to sell that home by agreeing to allow government workers to inspect it and any outlying property for compliance with local zoning ordinances, whether you like it or not. If you sell your home without a “Zoning Information Report” (ZIR), you can be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries with it both a fine and potentially jail time, as well as civil penalties. In addition, this “ZIR Ordinance” is impermissibly vague.

Such a policy does not comport with the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. Under the Fourth Amendment, government agents or police must secure a warrant issued by a neutral magistrate and based upon probable cause in order to conduct searches of private homes. They cannot simply pass a law requiring warrantless searches, or lie their way through the door.

Represented by Pacific Legal Foundation, the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors (SBAOR) challenged the unconstitutional ZIR Ordinance, specifically the City Council’s authorization of unconstitutional warrantless searches of private property, the unconstitutional condition on the sale of private property, and the impermissibly vague nature of the ZIR Ordinance on behalf of the people of Santa Barbara. After several rounds of filings, including a meritless attempted anti-SLAPP motion by the City, PLF filed a second amended complaint, to which Santa Barbara has filed another demurrer (or motion to dismiss) based in part upon several erroneous statute of limitations arguments.

But as we explain in our response filed with the Court last Tuesday, there is no statute of limitations on alleged violations of the Bill of Rights and Fourth Amendment.

Perhaps the Santa Barbara City Council should spend a little more time focused on following the requirements of the Constitution, and a little less time coming up with slippery ways to attempt to avoid valid lawsuits that seek to protect the rights of the people of Santa Barbara.

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Santa Barbara Association of Realtors v. City of Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City Council

Under an impermissibly vague Santa Barbara ordinance, home owners wishing to sell their residential property are required to allow the city to enter and conduct unconstitutional warrantless searches prior to sale. Failure to comply with this unconstitutional condition exposes the home owner to possible criminal and civil penalties. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and other related doctrines forbid this violation of individual rights.

PLF is fighting back.

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