Friday, June 16, 2006

Alito, Court Trash Fourth Amendment

Newly appointed Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito cast the decisive vote in greatly expanding the search and seizure powers of the police while crippling the Fourth Amendment in the process. (San Francisco Chronicle: Police intrusion for evidence allowed
Knock, announce not always needed, high court rules
.)

The Supreme Court claims that police intrusions onto private property are already protected by other means, citing "the increasing professionalism of police forces" as one such measure. Forgive me if I don't trust the professionalism of the police force to be a deterrent in violating search and seizure protections built into the US Constitution. Professional or not, the police will take and use as much authority as they are granted and will continue to attempt to extend that authority. There is a very good reason that law enforcement and the courts are not in the same branch of government. Unfortunately, the current Supreme Court is failing to provide the proper checks and balances against unlawful procedures by the police.

With today's ruling, any evidence seized during an unlawful search would still be admissible. It would no longer be considered tainted, thus eliminating any real need to avoid an unlawful search in the first place. With this ruling, the 4th Amendment suddenly becomes unenforceable.

Since the early 1970s there has been a constant erosion into the constitutional protections granted the citizens of the US. This ruling by the court is only the latest in a series of moves that transcend every administration since Nixon. Certainly aspects of the Patriot Act and the "security-mania" environment post-9/11 have fueled the move, but the truth is this erosion is not unique to either Republican or Democrat administrations nor is it something new. Both are equally guilty in eroding our rights. (Remember, it was Bill Clinton that issued executive orders authorizing the search of Section 8 housing without warrants on the grounds that they were funded by the government.)

If anyone wonders why the first and second amendments exist, this is precisely the reason. So where is the outrage from the press? Freedom of the Press exists to expose this type of abuse, to make the public aware of what's happening, and to stimulate the reactions necessary to counter it. The press should be all over this one, but somehow I doubt there will be much of a stir. Personally, I'm steaming. I very much fear that we are spiraling into a police state, and worse yet I fear that we're doing it with the consent of the people. Freedoms lost are never regained, and right now we're losing rights by the bushel.

2 comments :

Alan Fraser said...

Speaking from the lunatic liberal fringe, I agree with every word here. Insofar as we represent opposites of the political spectrum, I have to wonder who is supporting the erosion and why.

rightri said...

Failure to follow proper procedure should result in punishment levied on the officers. In the particular case, the officers failed to allow enough time after a knock, generally accepted as 30 seconds, before entering. The public, however, should not be punished for such a mistake. Whether 5 seconds or 30, the evidence would have been obtained. Should 25 seconds really allow the drugs to be excluded in a case against a dealer? or the gun from the case against the murderer? or the child pornography from the case against the molester? I don't see how my fourth amendment rights are infringed in this particular Supreme Court decision.