“Just as a kind of a query, what legal authority does the sheriff or anybody have to walk in to someone’s home and take property?” [Broward Circuit Judge Dale Ross] said. “Don’t we call that, in the business, stealing?”
[Mila Schwartzreich, the lawyer representing the Broward Sheriff’s Office] said state statute allowed the taking of property when there is a breach of the peace, which Ross again questioned.
“Breach of the peace was when Mr. Weinstein threatened suicide,” Schwartzreich said.
Ross did not seem satisfied.
“What happens is Mr. Policeman shows up at your house and routinely confiscates property,” Ross said. He called the sheriff’s deputies’ actions “well intended,” but added: “You don’t really have authority to take them. And now, lo and behold, they won’t give ’em back.”
The court is the only entity that can inquire into Weinstein’s mental fitness, he said….
Weinstein, of Pompano Beach, was mourning Dana, his wife of 61 years who had recently died, when his weapons were taken for safekeeping by the Sheriff’s Office in February.
According to a BSO report, he told authorities he “wanted to blow his head off.”
I should note that the police might well have the authority in many jurisdictions — perhaps even Florida — to do all sorts of things on an emergency basis when they have reason to believe lives are in danger. We can debate how much such authority they should have, and what the possible dangers of that authority might be; but they do have considerable authority along those lines. But from what the judge is quoted as saying, it sounds like they may have gone beyond the bounds of that authority, especially once there has been time to go through more formal procedures to determine whether the person involved is mentally fit.