Say goodbye to the Fourth Amendment folks. After saying a fond farewell to it in Indiana Monday, today we get to learn how it’s now almost dead on the national stage as well. Yesterday, in the case Kentucky vs. King, the Supreme Court took a big bite out of the protections we are supposed to enjoy.
Courtesy of the Cato Institute:
In this case, the police were after a drug dealer after he fled from a controlled-buy transaction. The dealer entered some apartment but the police were unsure of the unit number. As the police got closer, they could smell marijuana coming from a nearby apartment. Instead of posting an officer nearby and applying for a warrant, they decided to bang on the door, shouting “Police!” Hearing some rustling inside, the police broke down the door so evidence could not be destroyed. The occupants were arrested on drug charges and they later challenged the legality of the police entry and search. (As it happens, the dealer the police were trying to capture was found in another apartment.)
The lower courts have generally frowned on what they describe as exigencies manufactured by police conduct, but the Supreme Court has now overturned those lower court precedents by a 8-1 vote. In dissent, Justice Ginsburg asked the right question: “How ‘secure’ do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for evidence of unlawful activity?” And the unfortunate answer to the question is, a lot less secure.
I don’t often agree with Justice Ginsburg, but this time I agree completely.
Whether you agree with me about drug legalization or not, what happened in Kentucky is just downright scary. For example, police can knock on the door, identify themselves, and then kick in the door. After all, they’re likely to hear movement inside. This makes warrants rather superfluous. Kind of nice, isn’t it?
While civil liberties does make it more difficult to prosecute the guilty in this nation, it also makes it more difficult to prosecute the innocent. That’s why they’re there. It’s not to make police and prosecutor’s lives more difficult, but to keep the police from establishing a true police state. It’s for the protection of not just us as Americans, but the nation as a whole.
With luck, this will be met by the states in a similar manner to the Kelo decision where states stepped up and amended their constitutions to prevent that kind of abuse. I really, really hope it happens this time as well. That, plus I hope a court in the future overturns this dangerous precedent.
Hat tip to Reason.com