More 4th Amendment Weakening

Burgers and Boomsticks has a summary of a recent SCOTUS case that further weakens Fourth Amendment protections. Now it would seem of the police can come knocking on your door without a warrant, and provided they report hearing some kind of noise inside, will be able to enter claiming exigent circumstances claiming they had probable cause to believe you were destroying evidence. That has been the law for a while now, but I don’t think it’s right. Ginsburg was the only dissenter.

The 4th Amendment has been out of favor for a while now, and it’s one of the great travesties of the more conservative court in recent years. I am, for the most part, a Fourth Amendment absolutist. I don’t really agree with how Terry v. Ohio has been structured, nor do I agree with police being able to enter a private residence without a warrant except under emergency conditions, like someone calling 911 for a health emergency, the house being on fire, or hearing someone inside screaming for help. To me the Fourth Amendment means being able to live your life with your property and privacy safe from the depredations of governments. It is not a problem for law enforcement to look for ways around, with full help by American courts.

9 thoughts on “More 4th Amendment Weakening”

  1. Crazy how this is going, isn’t it? My home presently has no fencing around it, but I am always thinking of adding it. Ring the bell, let me see who you are on video camera and I will selectively let in who I want in.

    It’s a shame my private property is no longer private.

  2. No, This was not SCOTUS, but the Indiana supreme jesters.(sorry, court.) This will be taken to the supreme court, as it does involve the 4th Amendment, but I believe the U.S. Circuit courts must hear it first. Where ever it goes to first, this ruling will be struck down. The ruling has no basis in actual law. Paraphrasing the judges, ‘you have no right to deny the police entry into your house as the possibility of violence rises when you do so.’ No, this will not stand long.

  3. Oh, I guess I should have read the attached story first. DAMN! I read another story, thought this was the same one. THIS IS VERY DISTURBING!!!

  4. Bring back the original Fourth Amendment, then – strip cops of sovereign immunity, and let cops execute any search they want without a warrant.

    And then be subject to civil suits if they can’t justify the search to a jury as being reasonable.

  5. @Rangerbane: As I recall, the lower federal courts will not have to review this. SCOTUS has jurisdiction because the highest state court has reviewed a federal consitutional question.

  6. The main problem with the 4A is the drug war. The 4A was uncontroversial when there was really no such thing as contraband (think 1785) as contraband then meant “stuff you’d stolen from someone else.

    Our privacy in our homes is yet another victim of the war on drugs…


  7. Well, if you (mis-)characterize it like that, then yes.

    The police acted entirely legally, albeit stupidly.

    Could they have knocked on the door an announced their presence? Of course. You could do the same thing yourself.

    Could they have legally been in that position and therefore able to smell marijuana smoke? Yes; see above.

    Could they have legally been in that position and heard “suspicious” sounds? Yes; see above.

    Did they reasonably believe that the drug dealer had gone into that home? Yes.

    So what you had was reasonable suspicion that some illegal activity (smoking the reefer) was going on. That alone wouldn’t have been enough to go without a warrant. Even with sounds of disposal of evanescent evidence, not enough. But add in the reasonable suspicion that the dealer was inside and I think you’ve changed things enough that, taken all together, it makes sense.

    Ask yourself this: what if the police had gotten an anticipatory search warrant for “whatever residence the drug dealer enters after completing an observed sale,” then gone into the wrong house in a good-faith belief that it’s where the dealer had gone, then seen contraband in plain view? I think that would pass constitutional muster. Here, the court found as a matter of fact that the officers had heard sounds they reasonably believed to be the destruction of evanescent evidence. As this is an exception to the warrant requirement, they acted constitutionally.

    There are other restraints in place. At the suppression hearing, most judges are going to want more than “we heard rustling” and will also know if there are any officers they don’t trust. Will all judges? No. Then again, “the law” isn’t something that came down on stone tablets from heaven that can be done perfectly. It’s a jury-rigged (if you’ll excuse the term) contraption of a system that, like democracy, has the virtue of being less bad than every other system we’ve tried. There’s always room for improvement, but thinking that the Constitution is a foolproof protection is wishful thinking.

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