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FROM THE INSPECTOR GENERAL - Concerned Soldier seeks advice about warrant

By | April 29, 2016

Dear IG,

     I am a junior enlisted Soldier, spouse and father of two. I was recently informed by my first-line supervisor that I need to provide him with a good date and time for him to come by my off-post residence to conduct a home inspection. I know that my time in service and knowledge of the inner workings of the military are limited, but this just did not seem right. I asked my team leader where I could find the regulation that covers these inspections, and was informed that the policy exists, but my team leader was unwilling or unable to provide the regulations or policy. I have nothing to hide; however, I do not feel anyone has the right to come to my residence, where I pay the bills and tell me their opinion on the state of cleanliness of my residence. I dare not state my spouse’s opinion of this matter. I have no issues complying with this request if there is a policy or regulation covering home inspections, but I am unaware of a policy and my leadership has been unwilling or unable to provide me with any real guidance concerning this matter. Please Help.

Respectfully,

Concerned Soldier

 

     Dear Concerned Soldier,

     Your team leader is correct in the fact that a policy exists which provides guidance for all leaders making visits to Soldier’s homes, but he appears to be using the incorrect terminology. The correct term would be “Leader Home Visits.” The policy that covers home visits for on- and off-post housing can be found in the commanding general’s policy letter #9, para 3(b)(9), dated Nov. 3, 2015. Home visits are not inspections and they certainly are not searches. The intent is for leaders to get to know Soldiers and their families better. Perhaps during a home visit, when the Soldier or a family member is on their “home turf,” a leader may learn something that otherwise would not have been discovered at work or during the duty day. However, during the course of a home visit, a leader may request to conduct an inspection of the Soldier’s residence. At this time, the Soldier or adult family member may grant or deny the request as they see fit. Policy letter #9 specifically states, “Leaders should seek to visit their Soldier’s quarters at least semi-annually.”

     On- and off-post family housing is not like the barracks or other billeting in which a command can conduct a health and welfare inspection. Soldiers have more protections against inspections in on- and off-post family housing, which is not within the command’s control. The 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution applies to these home visits and must be adhered to. The 4th Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures and requires probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant.

     However, a warrant is not needed to enter or inspect a house when the resident allows the entry or inspection. If a leader, while acting with the resident’s permission, observes anything he or she believes to be illegal, such leader should contact local law enforcement authorities. The leader should not act without the proper authorities. The law enforcement authorities have the duty to apply for and execute search warrants or authorizations, not the concerned leader.

     Bottom line, a leader must ask for permission from the Soldier or adult resident before entering or inspecting a Soldier’s house. A leader may go to a Soldier’s house, ring the doorbell and ask to enter. If the Soldier or other adult resident consents to the leader entering, this does not give the leader the right to inspect the house. The Soldier or adult resident has to specifically allow an inspection of the house. Also, permission may be revoked at any time. Therefore, once the Soldier asks the leader to leave, the leader must comply and leave the residence.

     There are a number of best practices out there to help ensure all home visits are successful. Here are a couple.

  1. Do not conduct a home visit when the Soldier is not present.

  2. Two leaders or the leader and their spouse conduct home visits together in order to avoid misunderstandings or miscommunication.

         Conclusion: a leader may visit a Soldier’s house, but may not enter or inspect the house without permission. Any illegal activity observed should be immediately reported to the proper local authorities. Any and all references used for this article can be found in the Staff Judge Advocate section of the commander’s dashboard, on the Fort Riley SharePoint.

         If you have any additional questions, please call the Office of the Inspector General at 785-239-IGIG (4444).

         Sincerely,

          Fort Riley IG

 

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