Bill in Montana State Legislature to keep feds in line
February 26, 2005
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
A new bill has been introduced in the Montanta State Legislature which require the County Sheriff be notified before any federal agents are allowed to enter the state with the intention of carrying out law enforcement actions. The bill provides not only for pre-notification, but the Sheriff must also give consent before federal agents may proceed.
A similar action took place back on April 15, 1997, Big Horn County, Wyoming when Sheriff Dave Mattis issued a new policy regarding federal law enforcement personnel:
Federal law enforcement personnel need to notify Big Horn County Sheriff's Office in advance of any federal law enforcement operation in Big Horn County, Wyoming.
Sheriff's Office requests the following information before the Sheriff determines whether the Sheriff's Office will be involved:
An identification of the individuals or residences to be searched or arrested if known.
An identification of the agencies and personnel to be involved in the overall operation contemplated by the federal law enforcement agency.
An identification of the chain of command for the operation or planned activity.
An identification of the translator if those to be arrested or subject to search are not expected to be fluent in English.
Determine the time of day of proposed arrest or search.
The Sheriff's Office will inquire of federal law enforcement personnel in charge to confirm that the federal law enforcement agency in good faith has probable cause for any potential searches and arrests prior to any such search or arrest of which the Sheriffs Office gains knowledge.
The Sheriff's Office will discourage federal law enforcement arrests or searches after 10:00 P.M. unless exigent circumstances exist.
If assistance is provided, the Big Horn County Sheriff's Office will:
Have direct radio communication capability with the Sheriff's Dispatch during all searches and arrests. Report any observed violation of civil rights to the Sheriff's Dispatch contemporaneously. Keep dispatcher logs. Prepare after action reports within 48 hours. Conduct thorough investigation of any alleged civil rights violations.
This new policy by Sheriff Mattis was a result of a U.S. District Court decision (Case No. 2:96-cv-099-J) and announced that all federal officials were forbidden to enter his county without his prior approval stating: "If a sheriff doesn't want the Feds in his county he has the constitutional power and right to keep them out or ask them to leave or retain them in custody."
This court decision stemmed from a lawsuit against Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the IRS by Sheriff Mattis and other members of the Wyoming Sheriffs' Association. This lawsuit filed in federal district court in Wyoming was to enforce the protections provided by the U.S. and Wyoming constitutions. The District Court found in favor of the sheriffs and stated in their ruling that "Wyoming is a sovereign state and the duly elected sheriff of a county is the highest law enforcement official within a county and has law enforcement powers exceeding that of any other state or federal official." The language here reaffirms that "the duly elected sheriff of a county is the highest law enforcement official within a county and has law enforcement powers exceeding that of any other state or federal official." The court was referring to the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Following this ruling Wyoming sheriffs then began demanding access to all ATF files to ascertain whether or not this federal agency wasn't violating provisions of Wyoming law which prohibits the registration of firearms or the keeping of a registry of firearm owners. Additionally, these sheriffs notified federal agencies that they would 'immediately cease the seizure of private property and the impoundment of private bank accounts without regard to due process in state courts.'
The introduction for this new bill in the Montana State Legislature, HB 284 reads as follows:
A BILL FOR AN ACT ENTITLED: "AN ACT REGULATING ARRESTS, SEARCHES, AND SEIZURES BY FEDERAL EMPLOYEES; PROVIDING THAT FEDERAL EMPLOYEES MUST OBTAIN THE COUNTY SHERIFF'S PERMISSION TO ARREST, SEARCH, AND SEIZE; PROVIDING EXCEPTIONS; PROVIDING FOR PROSECUTION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES VIOLATING THIS ACT; REJECTING FEDERAL LAWS PURPORTING TO GIVE FEDERAL EMPLOYEES THE AUTHORITY OF A COUNTY SHERIFF IN THIS STATE; AND PROVIDING AN IMMEDIATE EFFECTIVE DATE."
The full text may be found here. Montana's state legislature has a short term. Supporters of this bill encourage everyone in Montana who agrees with this bill to contact their state legislator and encourage them to vote yes.
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