The Reporter covers Miller, Morgan and Camden County in Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks and is published once per week on Wednesdays.
Published August 23, 2023
Administrative search warrants for OB?
OSAGE BEACH – The Board of Aldermen have approved the first reading of a bill that would allow administrative search warrants to be used in the city.
Administrative search warrants are a tool used by many cities to investigate code violations. The city of Camdenton approved administrative search warrants in 2011.
That bill was met with some dissent by then board member Sandy Osborn. It was stated by the city attorney that this is a tool that Camdenton does not need now but is there if it is needed in the future.
The same reasoning was given at last week’s Board of Aldermen meeting, that this is a tool that is there for future use.
City Attorney Cole Bradbury explained to the board in his written comments about the need for this.
“Administrative search warrants are a tool used by many cities to investigate code violations. They allow the City to seek a warrant from its municipal judge (or a state judge) to enter private property without the owner/occupant's permission. We have not used them in the past and do not foresee using them much in the future, but they would be a useful tool in case we suspect a code violation but cannot prove it from the street (for instance, an illegal kennel in the basement or a chop shop operating in a fenced backyard). The Building Official and I believe having this ordinance enacted now will speed enforcement if the need ever arises for this type of warrant.”
What is an Administrative Search Warrant? The proposed bill defines that:
“1. An ‘administrative search warrant’ is a written order commanding the search or inspection of any property, place or thing and the seizure, photographing, copying or recording of property or physical conditions found thereon or therein to determine or prove the existence of violations of any ordinance or Code section of the city relating to the use, condition or occupancy of property or structures located within the said City or to enforce the provisions of any such ordinance or Code section. See Camara v. Municipal Court of City and County of San Francisco, 387 U.S. 523, 538-39 (1967).”
The administrative search warrant can be issued by the judge of the Osage Beach Municipal Division or by another judge of the county circuit court having jurisdiction over the things or places to be searched or seized.
But the question arises: could this be used as a “fishing trip” to raise money for the city.
In other words, could someone get a warrant and go look for things in order to bring more money into the city coffers?
The rules for obtaining a warrant should prevent that from happening. To apply for a warrant the following conditions must be met, according to the bill:
1. Any police officer, code enforcement officer, fire department personnel, building inspector, or city attorney for the City may make application to the judge for the issuance of an administrative search warrant.
2. The application shall:
a. Be in writing;
b. State the time and date of the making of the application; c. Identify the property or places to be entered, searched, inspected or seized in sufficient detail and particularity that the officer executing the warrant can readily ascertain it;
d. State that the owner or occupant of the property or places to be entered, searched, inspected or seized has been requested by an appropriate officer of the city to allow such action and has refused to allow such action, or give the reasons such request has not been made;
e. State facts sufficient to show probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant, as provided in this chapter, to:
i. Search or inspect for violations of an ordinance or Code section specified in the application; or
ii. Show that entry or seizure is authorized and necessary to enforce an ordinance or Code section specified in the application and that any required due process has been afforded prior to the entry or seizure;
f. Be verified by the oath or affirmation of the applicant;
g. Be signed by the applicant and filed in the court of the judge hearing the application.
3. The application may be supplemented by a written affidavit by oath or affirmation. Such an affidavit shall be considered in determining where there is a probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant and in filling out any deficiencies in the description of the property or place to be searched or inspect. Oral testimony shall not be considered. The application or execution of a search warrant shall not be deemed invalid for the sole reason that the application or execution of the warrant relies upon electronic signatures of any person seeking the warrant or judge issuing the warrant.”
This should eliminate a “fishing trip” but in Section D (Hearing Procedure, under number 2) it does say “The standard for issuing a warrant need not be limited to actual knowledge of an existing violation of an ordinance or Code section.”
So just suspecting there may possibly be a code violation would be sufficient for an administrative search warrant to be issued.
The administrative search warrant will allow whoever is executing the warrant to photograph, copy, record and to seize property (pursuant to an abatement).
There was no discussion or questions from the board and the first reading passed unanimously. The second reading should take place at the next Board of Aldermen meeting.
In other business at last Week’s Board of Aldermen meeting:
This vehicle will replace one that was hit in June of this year.
On June 16, 2023, a city police car was involved in a head-on crash on the Grand Glaize Bridge. The driver of the other vehicle was travelling the wrong direction on Highway 54, was intoxicated and did not have insurance.
In his report to the board, Chief Todd Davis said they were only able to find two vehicles in the lower 48 states that are available, one in Oklahoma and the other in Pennsylvania.
“We filed a claim with our insurance company and they determined that the vehicle was a total loss. Unfortunately, it was one of the newer vehicles in our fleet, a 2022 Ford Interceptor Utility with just over 10,000 miles.
“The insurance companies’ total loss evaluation is estimated at $39,831. However, we have a $1,000 deductible, so we are looking at a payment from the insurance company of $38,831.
“Locating a replacement vehicle in today’s market is difficult as everyone is still trying to get their vehicles that they ordered and there are only a few extra vehicles out there. We have attempted to locate a vehicle through our normal process and vendors and there are no vehicles anywhere in the State of Missouri.
“The vehicle in Oklahoma is located at Dunn Ford Company in Stigler, OK and has a price of $48,970. The other vehicle is located in Pennsylvania at McCandless Ford in Meadville, PA at a price of $49,825. Dunn Ford is figuring in a government price and McCandless is giving a Missouri State incentive price.”
Davis also told the board that almost all of the equipment from the wrecked car is reusable and it will only cost about $3,000 to transfer the equipment to the new vehicle.
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