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No Castle Doctrine: A Homeowner Is Arrested in F Section For Refusing to Let In Cops to Serve a Warrant

| June 3, 2014

Susan Jones at home with one of her four dogs. Click on the image for larger view. (Courtesy of Susan Jones)

Susan Jones at home with one of her four dogs. Click on the image for larger view. (Courtesy of Susan Jones)

Last Updated: June 4, 1:03 p.m., with Susan Jones’s response.

Some people may be under the impression that one’s home is one’s castle—inviolable, a refuge even from police intrusion. But armed with a warrant, police disabuse people of that assumption routinely. Susan Jones, for more than seven years a home owner on Palm Coast’s Ferdinand Lane, found out the hard way Friday (May 30) when she was arrested, charged with two counts of resisting arrest then charged with what appears to be a gratuitous charge unrelated to the case—driving on a suspended license, though she hadn’t been pulled over. The reason: she tried to stop Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies from entering her home.

But the deputies were aware of an active felony warrant for the arrest of a woman who was in Jones’s house at the time. The deputies had been led there by a man who was charging that the woman had stolen various items of his, the total valued at around $500.

The incident began Friday morning when George Joseph Bears, a 29-year-old resident of Rockledge, Fla., contacted the Sheriff’s Office to “conduct a standby to ensure the peace” as he’d been informed that Tiffany Bernstein was at 2 Ferdinand Lane, in possession of property belonging to him and reported stolen from Broward County. Bernstein is a 24-year-old resident of Mims, Fla., with arrest records in Seminole, Broward, Orange, and now Flagler counties.

A cop escorted Bears to the Ferdinand Lane door and tried to make contact with Bernstein. By then the deputy had determined that Bernstein had an active warrant against her. She came to the window, but said “she was not going to open the door and come out,” according to an incident report.

Cops established a perimeter around the house and made announcements to Bernstein to come out. She would not. At 8:30 Jones arrived by car after being informed—it’s not clear by whom—that Bears had called the cops to her property. Jones was told, according to the report, that Bernstein was inside and that she had an active felony warrant.

Jones had four dogs inside the house. She was asked to secure them. “Jones was warned prior to entering the residence that Tiffany Bernstein did have an active Brevard County felony warrant and if she did not return and allow FCSO to serve the warrant she could be arrested for obstruction/resisting,” the report states.

Tiffany Bernstein

Tiffany Bernstein

After a few moments in the house, Jones returned to the main door and began to close it, telling deputies that Bernstein was not coming out, and she was not going to allow deputies entry to her house. “Before Susan Jones closed the door,” the report states, “entry was made to the residence and she was informed that the felony warrant was being served. [Jones] physically attempted to prevent the service of the warrant stating law enforcement could not enter her property. [Jones] then grasped Cpl. [Kevin] Byrne by the arm in an attempt to prevent our entry.”

“Don’t put your hands on me,” Jones said, when told that she was being placed under arrest for obstruction of justice. She continued to physically pull her hands away until she was placed in handcuffs.

On Wednesday (May 5), the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office’s Sgt. Carl Spath responded to questions about the handling of the incident. The questions had been asked of the Sheriff’s Office the day before the story was published. “[Florida Statute] 901.04 directs all sheriff’s to execute an arrest warrant on any day and at any time. FSS 901.16 explains that the warrant need not be in possession upon making an arrest. FSS 901.19 states that the deputy may use all necessary and reasonable force to enter any building or property where the person to be arrested is believed to be.”

901.04 reads, in full: “Warrants shall be directed to all sheriffs of the state. A warrant shall be executed only by the sheriff of the county in which the arrest is made unless the arrest is made in fresh pursuit, in which event it may be executed by any sheriff who is advised of the existence of the warrant. An arrest may be made on any day and at any time of the day or night.” 901.16 reads in full: “A peace officer making an arrest by a warrant shall inform the person to be arrested of the cause of arrest and that a warrant has been issued, except when the person flees or forcibly resists before the officer has an opportunity to inform the person, or when giving the information will imperil the arrest. The officer need not have the warrant in his or her possession at the time of arrest but on request of the person arrested shall show it to the person as soon as practicable.”

Spath continued: “Cpl. Byrne was on scene and used good judgment and discretion by waiting for the homeowner to arrive home to put away the dogs so nothing would happen to them even though he could have made entry at any time because the sliding door in the back was unlocked. And even if all doors and windows were locked, he could have used force to make entry, but he didn’t.”

Bernstein too was arrested on the felony warrant, but not on the theft charges, as Bears became uncooperative and declined to press charges against her. After Jones consented, according to the report, to have her house searched for Bears’s possessions, Bears got his fishing rods and reels, a bait bucket and a GPX stereo with two speakers valued at $50.00.

Bears looked for more items, didn’t find them and told deputies he thought Bernstein had pawned them. Bears, who had himself asked for the Sheriff’s Office’s assistance at the beginning of the morning, “became uncooperative when Tiffany Bernstein sent him a text message from within the residence and prior to her arrest,” the report states, “that she would return his property but only if law enforcement left.”

Susan Jones Responds:

I do not run back ground checks on my children’s friends. This young woman was in an abusive relationship and needed a place to stay for a couple of days. In return she was helping me with some household chores. She was polite and respectful and presented her self as a nice young women.

Susan Jones and her huskies. (Susan Jones)

Susan Jones and her huskies. (Susan Jones)

I had absolutely no idea this incident was occurring at my home. When I arrived home I was overwhelmed with the amount of police presence at my home. You would have thought a murder had taken place. I was told that a warrant for a probation violation was issued for the girl in my home. At this point I didn’t even know if she was still in my home. I was asked to secure my dogs and that I was lucky that they didn’t enter an hour ago and shoot my dogs.

I left my keys in the front door to assure the police I was working with them. I was able to secure two dogs and ask Tiffany to come out, which she refused. the police began banging on my door so I stopped the conversation and the securing of my last two dogs and went back to the door.

I told the officers that she was refusing to come out and asked if they had a warrant. At which point they barged into my home when I asked them to stop for the safety of my dogs and to allow me to get them secure. They over-zealously grabbed me and arrested me and placed me in handcuffs, using enough force to cause bruising to my hands and arms.

I have nothing but the utmost respect for officers of the law especially since I have five police office in my immediate family. But do not know all the laws . Why? Because I live a quiet life and don’t have any problems with law enforcement. I respect the law.

These officers were aggravated with the heat and the situation and took out their frustrations on me. I also did not give permission for anyone to enter my home after Tiffany was removed from the premises. At one point, sitting in the cruiser, I observed the man the police referred to as George walking around my property and asked why he was being allowed to access my property and was told to shut up. this man removed property without my knowledge or permission. The police stated that there were fishing rods in my garage, and could they give them to this man George. How did they know that fishing rods were in my garage, when I the homeowner was not even home or aware that they were there?

My home was turned upside down, drawers, closets and numerous items were moved and destroyed. As a result my gates to my yard were left open on one side and one of the dogs that I was not able to secure through all the excitement and confusion got so scared she escaped and has been missing since Friday.

This is a dog who is 11 years old that I have been nursing back to health for the last seven months. She is one of four animals that were removed from a breeding mill in Miami and a story was run in the Daytona News Journal as one of the most horrific cases of abuse. Her name is Maya and she left behind her brother who is partially blind and depends on her. My heart is saddened for all that occurred, and I believe that the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office could have handled this in a more professional way. And I am saddened that so many people would be so judgmental about a one sided story.

I hope this abuse of power never happens to anyone because there was no need for this. Or the embarrassment that I know must endure for the lovely one-sided article this site has written.

Maya, who's been missing since the incident. (Susan Jones)

Maya, who’s been missing since the incident. (Susan Jones)

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26 Responses for “No Castle Doctrine: A Homeowner Is Arrested in F Section For Refusing to Let In Cops to Serve a Warrant”

  1. ted bundy says:

    another palm coast scientist!! obey the warrant, PERIOD. or is that to confusing!!

    • wyatt earp says:

      yeah some free country we live in , is like Nazi Germany in this town, camera`s on every corner ,cops kicking in your door like the Gestapo, you get pulled over they blind you with lights, hammer on windows with billy clubs , cops used to be nice and respectful and reasonable in this town , now they are militant and angry , its insane

  2. A.S.F. says:

    Very strange story and very strange people. There’s got to be a lot more going on than this.

    • A concerned citizen says:

      The guy probably traded the stuff to the girl for drugs, and when she didn’t come thru with them, he filed a report stating that she stole it all. What was he going to say to the police? She stiffed me on my crack cocaine? This is too weird, you are right.

    • Larry says:

      Yea there is lot more going on… This young lady has a warrant for grand theft auto, stealing government property, and now by the looks of it petty theft!

  3. confidential says:

    As I said Palm Coast has changed for the worst…we have criminals coming from other areas of Florida or out of state to steal, harass and make a nuisance of this city for good law abiding residents.
    They deal drugs from their rundown homes and or run illegal non approved junkyard businesses also from their garages and backyards creating eyesores and accumulations and devaluation for our properties as well. Also their water front seawalls are caved in in those canals and city is almost powerless to have them repair and on top they rent those houses for cheap to mostly undesirables.
    City code and law enforcement need to work harder to address our complaints. Good job sheriff!

    • Going where the water tastes like wine says:

      “Palm Coast has changed for the worst…we have criminals coming from other areas of Florida or out of state to steal, harass and make a nuisance of this city for good law abiding residents.
      They deal drugs from their rundown homes and or run illegal non approved junkyard businesses also from their garages and backyards creating eyesores and accumulations and devaluation for our properties as well. Also their water front seawalls are caved in in those canals and city is almost powerless to have them repair and on top they rent those houses for cheap to mostly undesirables.
      City code and law enforcement need to work harder to address our complaints. Good job sheriff!”
      Well said and thank you for saying it! Don’t forget the junker boats tied up to some falling down docks.

  4. amy says:

    Ted u dont even kno what you are talking about. My mother Susan Jones told the police they can enter just let her put our dogs up. She even left the keys in the door so they didn’t feel locked out. You cant always believe everything you read. It was a lovers quarrel and that’s why the guy refused to press charges. She is a good girl and nobody knew she had a warrant. Another asshole guy using power to try and trap a girl. George was an abusive asshole that beat Tiffany daily and nothing was stolen it all belonged to Tiffany he just didnt want to go back to him and he got mad. So u making smart comments is it that complicated or whatever u said plz refrain from judging until u kno the whole story. My mom has been a home owner in palm coast for over 7 yrs. She has never been arrested or even pulled over. She works full time and rescues/fosters dogs on the side. She is a wonderful loving person and this is all a big mistake. U never should have been arrested.

    • A.S.F. says:

      @amy says–For a “good girl”, your friend Tiffany has gotten herself into a lot of trouble lately, and not just here in Flagler County. Your mother will have her day in court and I hope, for both your sakes, that she has a good attorney. But you both might be placing a little too much trust in “your friend”, Tiffany. It looks like trouble follows her wherever she goes.

  5. Concerned Citizen says:

    The cops did not have a warrant to enter and search the separate homeowner’s house, did they? Where is the public record of the warrant? Can they come to anyone’s door with any Tom, Dick, or Harry who claims something of theirs is in your house? Bloody hell!

    It’s like a flipping free-for-all in Flagler County! I witnessed a senior citizen get knocked clean through the air and on to his back by a golfer who forced his way onto his land to get a ball. When I came running to help the neighbor, he came at me with a golf club until he saw I was not budging if he tried to use it on me. Three witnesses to a violent crime and criminal threatening and guess what the deputies did? They let the guy go and said the prosecutor’s office would contact him to get the facts straight!

    Booh Sheriff’s office! Booh!

  6. A concerned citizen says:

    Here is the thing that sticks out to me…. They had a warrant for the arrest of the girl in the home. But, did they have an actual warrant to ENTER AND SEARCH that particular home? A warrant granting access to the home is one thing–they can literally break down your door for that type of thing if you do not cooperate. But a warrant for one person’s arrest does not necessarily mean you can transfer it to access another UNRELATED person’s home. I say, whatever they found there was seized illegally then, and therefore not admissable.

    Wouldn’t be the first time FCSO abused their power. They do it every single day from what I see.

  7. Don't wanna be treated thisaway says:

    Wouldn’t it just suck to be a cop and get dragged into this sort of stuff? They just never know when it could go south and get really dangerous.

  8. Anonymous says:

    all i can say is that if there is no trust for the fcso than when you hear that noise at your window like someone is trying to get in at 2 or 3 in the morning than you go check it out

  9. I/M/O says:

    I/M/O allowing a civilian to enter a house where a fugitive with a felony warrant is known to be is horrible police work. What if this Tiffany Bernstein decided to take her hostage. Did the police know if there were guns in that house?
    I don’t care if she owns the house or not. She was safely outside her house where the female with the felony warrant was hiding.
    You keep her outside and away from the house.

    • Wolley Segap says:

      Maybe they should have just shot the dogs and tased the older woman because that would have been a much better outcome than the judgement call they made while on scene right? SMH. It’s not always textbook and if you’re posting from a law enforcement perspective then you know that circumstances dictate actions. No one was hurt in the execution of the warrant so I’d say they did right.

  10. Sherry Epley says:

    According to even the ACLU. . . If the police have an active arrest warrant, they have the right to require entry into a private residence of even another party. . . IF they have any reason to believe the person for who they have the warrant is inside.

    It appears the police acted correctly and in accordance with the law. Well Done!

    My question is. . . with such a trail of encounters with the law, why is this person not being helped by an appropriate religious/government/social service? Where is her family?

  11. NortonSmitty says:

    Once she told them the girl was in the house, they did have the right and responsibility to arrest her.

    What we should think about is that today stealing a fishing pole and bucket is a felony. In the 1930’s a felony did not occur until until the stolen property was valued at over $1,000, or Grand theft, and is why this sum is still called A Grand today. I would guess this would equal about $20,000 in 2014 dollars. Because back then we didn’t want every petty thief to be a convicted felon.
    Today, they have actually lowered the threshold regardless of inflation to I believe $300. So we have bullshit like this that turns into a life and death incident. And we wonder why we have more of our people in prison than any nation in the history of the world.

    • Geezer (El Geezer) says:

      You can swindle the entire United States, ruin the economy (the WORLD economy at that)
      and never see a jail cell. Oh and you’ll get a bonus in the millions!

      But don’t shoplift a candy bar at Walmart! You will don orange jumpers and have
      a portrait shot by a corrections officer for the whole world to see, and you’ll bunk with Bubba
      until you arrange for bond.

      Per capita we’re number one in incarcerations world-wide.
      At least we’re leading in something….

  12. Linda says:

    Let’s get all the facts. What is known about the current incident is reported.
    One thing is for sure – this is not a girl. She’s a 24 year old woman.
    My guts tell me that Susan Jones may have made a bad judgment call on protecting her under these circumstances.
    Sometimes the empathy and sympathy of good persons is misplaced.

  13. Ed says:

    Bloody hell is right. When you hear someone at your window at 2 or 3 am? 2nd Amendment.

  14. A.S.F. says:

    Ms. Jones–I am sorry that you had to go through all this. It must have been very frightening and upsetting, especially in regards to your beloved pets. If the officers overstepped their bounds, you could, and probably should, file a detailed complaint. However, you might want to consider having a talk with your daughter about the friends she chooses. If you have a computer, you can research Ms. Bernstein’s prior troubles with the law. It appears that there is a negative pattern of behavior and you might want to know a little more about how involved in anything like that your daughter might be (or, if she was just duped by someone she considered a friend…but, you will never know unless you try to find out.) Ms. Bernstein put you in an untenable position by refusing to surrender herself on her own. I hope everything will work out for you and your family.

  15. amy says:

    ASF thank u for your concern. I did not now the trouble tiffany had been in until this time. We were newly friends and as u can tell from all the pics of our rescued dogs we have a big heart and I didn’t think to run her back round when we became friends. I don’t like to judge people before hand. In this case tho you are right because now look at all the embarrassment my mother has endured for me trying to help a friend. and our beloved 11 yr old husky Maya is still missing running the streets. I’m so sorry for everything this has put my mother threw. Right now my main concern is to bring Maya home so if there are any animal lovers out there that would like to help us search for her it would be greatly appreciated. her blind brother needs her!!!!!

  16. A.S.F. says:

    @amy says–I hope Maya comes home safe. You and your Mom sound like you have both been through a lot. I wish the best for both of you!

  17. Liberty or Death says:

    There is a MONSTER loose in America…….10 years ago the Peace Officers of every state REMOVED the emblem ” To Protect and Serve ” from their patrol cars. It was at that point that America became the same as Germany when Hitler came into power. When you have a Tyrannical government and police force who is tactically militarized, then you NO longer have a FREE SOCIETY !

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