Rapid City murder case raises questions about privacy rights of - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Rapid City murder case raises questions about privacy rights of the homeless

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Police in Rapid City have arrested a suspect for the murder of a man found dead in the alley behind Cold Stone Creamery Sunday.

Rapid City police say the victim, Myron Rock, 47, of Rapid City, was badly beaten. On Sunday, police detained 18-year-old Michael Hand and another man for questioning before charging Hand with murder.

Before police gathered any evidence in the alley, they got a search warrant to legally enter the homeless camp set up behind Cold Stone.

All American citizens expect a certain level of privacy, even when they’re away from their homes; things like cars, bags or purses are all private property and require a search warrant. The same applies to the personal belongings of a homeless person.

“I personally carry what I own on my backpack on my back and I should have as much right to privacy with that as someone with a house or a car,” said Mike Nelson, a homeless man living in Sioux Falls.

Protecting that right to privacy can be quite a challenge for any homeless person.

“It’s a very constant struggle. You're always wondering where do you leave your stuff so that no one is rifling through it, where is that privacy? If you're staying out in the woods, where is that privacy? Do you have the same privacy laws that someone in their own house would have?” asked Maria Krell, the Executive Director of the Good Sheppard Center.

Sioux Falls police say homeless individuals can expect a right to privacy for their belongings, even when they’re in a public location.

“If a person has any kind of expectation of privacy, so if its a tent, or a cardboard box and they have their stuff in it and they don't want other people going inside of it, then they have established some type of expectation of privacy that it's not open to everyone even if its in a public area,” said Sioux Falls Police Officer Sam Clemens.

Clemens says the law is similar to someone’s car parked on a public street; just because you may be able to see the car out in public, a search warrant is still need to conduct a police search for any kind of evidence.

Krell says often times homeless people will live in camps or other outdoor areas where its difficult to protect their private things.

“People can just walk in even though it’s kind of that person's house,” said Krell.

While police don’t have the right to go through a homeless person’s belongings, they can tell them to leave a public place.

“Camping is only allowed in Sioux Falls in designated places…so our park officers will go through and find the people that are camping there and just let them know that they're not allowed to that, that its against city ordinance and have them remove their belongings,” said Officer Clemens.

Nelson says he understands police can tell him to leave an outdoor location he may be spending the night in, but he says it doesn’t mean he loses his right to privacy.

“If I’m sleeping outside or something, if they want to come and kick me out, that's no reason for them to come and look through my things,” said Nelson.

In any kind of serious case like the murder in Rapid City, police say they are going to be extra cautious about getting a search warrant for anything they find. Even if it’s on a public street, police say its better to be safe than have the evidence thrown out in court.


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