February 20th, 2021 — By — In News & Events
Destruction of Home During Police Enforcement Operations Not a Compensable Taking
Many people would assume that if a police department or swat team completely destroyed someone’s private residence during an operation to apprehend a fleeing suspect, particularly when that suspect did not have an ownership interest in the residence, the government would be responsible and liable for the destruction under the Fifth Amendment “takings clause” of the United States Constitution. But in two recent court decisions, one from Colorado decided in 2019 entitled Lech vs. Johnson and one from South Dakota decided on February 10, 2021 entitled Hamen v. Hamlin County, Hamen v. Hamlin County, the courts reached a different conclusion. In each, the court ruled that such exercises of the government’s police power cannot constitute a taking of private property warranting the payment to just compensation. In Colorado, the fleeing suspect (who was being chased for shoplifting at a Walmart store) had no ownership or other interest in the home he took refuge in; in other words the owners were innocent bystanders. In the South Dakota case, the police were under the impression that the suspect in a series of crimes was holed up in his parent’s mobile home. He was not and the police did not assert that his parents had any involvement in his criminal activities. For more background about each of these cases, read Robert Thomas’ Inverse Condemnation Blog discussion by clicking here.