Courts Overturn 4th Amendment

Column by Michael Kleen.
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If there was any lingering doubt as to whether federal or state governments would act against constitutional or common law when it served their interests, that ambiguity has been dispelled. Just days apart, two Supreme Court decisions, one state and one federal, directly attacked the individual right against unreasonable searches and seizures as spelled out by the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Since the 18th Century, with some exceptions, police have been required to obtain a search warrant or the permission of the owner before being allowed to enter a person’s home. In an 8-1 decision on May 16, however, the Supreme Court of the United States swept that away.
Now, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, police may enter a home if and when they “hear sounds suggesting evidence is being destroyed.” What evidence, you ask? What kind of sounds? Perhaps the sound of a toilet flushing or someone lighting a match or turning on a document shredder? What qualifies as this “sound”? Moreover, what prevents police officers from simply saying they thought they heard evidence being destroyed? The specific case involved proves enlightening.
According to the Chicago Tribune, it all started when police in Lexington, Kentucky were in the midst of pursuing a suspect who ran into an apartment building. The officers did not see which apartment he entered, but when they smelled marijuana smoke coming from one of them, they wrongly assumed he had gone into that one. They pounded on the door and yelled “Police!” The sound of people moving inside the apartment followed, so the police officers broke down the door and arrested a man named Hollis King, who they found smoking pot. They also discovered cocaine in King’s apartment. He was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 11 years in prison.
After appeal, the Kentucky Supreme Court overturned King’s conviction and ruled the apartment break-in violated his 4th Amendment right against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The case then went to the U.S. Supreme Court where, incredibly, they overturned the Kentucky decision.
So, what sound had justified the police officers breaking into Hollis King’s home? What did the United States Supreme Court determine was a reasonable indicator that evidence was about to be destroyed? The Tribune article was very specific: “The sound of people moving inside the apartment.” Did you catch that? The sound of people moving. So, the next time the police knock on your door, make sure not to get up to answer it.
It gets worse. In the few remaining circumstances where police entry into your home can be considered illegal, you have no right to resist, according to the Indiana Supreme Court. “We believe… a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy.…” one justice explained in the recent 3-2 decision. Justice Robert Rucker, one of the two dissenters, strongly disagreed. “In my view the majority sweeps with far too broad a brush by essentially telling Indiana citizens that government agents may now enter their homes illegally – that is, without the necessity of a warrant, consent or exigent circumstances,” he wrote.
His colleague added, “The wholesale abrogation of the historic right of a person to reasonably resist unlawful police entry into his dwelling is unwarranted and unnecessarily broad.”
It would be an understatement to say that these court rulings represent a disturbing benchmark on the road to tyranny in the United States, but they did not occur in a vacuum. Under the guise of the War on Drugs and War on Terror, authorities have long sought to expand their powers within the bounds of existing law. Between 2007 and 2009, the use of “delayed-notice” search warrants, or “sneak and peak” warrants, has grown from 700 to nearly 2,000 annually. With delayed-notice warrants, federal agents are allowed to enter a home without the knowledge of the owner and search through the person’s belongings. Although use of these special warrants has spiked since the renewal of the Patriot Act in 2005, information from the U.S. Justice Department shows the majority of them have been used in drug cases.
For many years, appeals to the U.S. Constitution have been used to fight the growing encroachment of government on our natural rights. If the legal trend illustrated in the above cases continues, however, it is clear that the arbiters of constitutional law will not be persuaded by those arguments. With naked contempt for the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, they will simply interpret the Constitution in a manner that grants them the broad powers they desire, even if that interpretation essentially absolves the document of any meaning.

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Michael Kleen's picture
Columns on STR: 36

Michael Kleen is the Editor-in-Chief of Untimely Meditations, publisher of Black Oak Presents, and proprietor of Black Oak Media. He holds a M.A. in History and a M.S. in Education, and is the author of Statism and its Discontents, a collection of columns on the topics of Statism, liberty, and their conflict. His columns have appeared in a variety of publications and websites, including Strike-the-Root.


tzo's picture

I think this article is an excellent example of why Constitutional government will always degrade into tyranny. The fellas who make the laws get to interpret the "restraining" piece of paper to their advantage. Within a system in which brute force compels obedience to law, only brute force (revolution) can "reform" it. But if that same reformed system (Constitutional government) stays in place, then you're just running another lap.

This article can perhaps help people see the futility of using the system to change the system and just maybe get them to consider other options—like abandoning it—when they hear them. Eventually, when things get stupid enough, it won't sound so crazy.

Suverans2's picture

"For many years, appeals to the U.S. Constitution have been used to fight the growing encroachment of government on our natural rights."

Question, what would you do if you became a member of The Natural Rights Protection Agency and that protection agency began 'encroaching' on the very rights they were supposed to protect?

Michael Kleen's picture

I see where you're trying to go with this analogy but it doesn't really work for several reasons. If the The Natural Rights Protection Agency was a private organization, I'm assuming there would be other, similar groups and I could just leave or join another group (or I could work to jettison the people responsible for moving the group in this new direction). However, your analogy for the State doesn't work because you can't leave "the State," you can move to other States - but then you would be stuck with the same problem. You could only move to States that were more free than the others, or to Antarctica, the ocean, or out in the wilderness somewhere where you can pretend the State doesn't exist. You could work to abolish that State, but you would need the cooperation of most, if not everyone, who depends on that State.

The relationship between society and the State is far more complex than your analogy would assume, but as always, the dualistic mindset (it's either this or that) is one of the failings of ideological thinking.

Suverans2's picture

Why do you resort to insults, Michael Kleen, do you really think they make your arguments stronger?

But that aside, you seem to be confusing 'secession' with 'expatriation', as nearly everyone else does. One does not have to "move" anywhere when one secedes, i.e. withdraws from membership in the political corporation.

And, " apparently missed these three questions, (the previous two times I posted them), since you failed to answer...", so I will try once more.

(1) What is it you are looking for, the "magic bullet", the perfectly painless way to withdraw from membership in the STATE? [Edited for accuracy]

(2) What is your strategy, change enough people's minds with your rhetoric, and "alternative news", that they will "alter or...abolish" the STATE for you?

(3) Do you even know me, Michael Kleen? [This last one I have now asked four times!]

Thank you, in advance, for your time and attention.

Suverans2's picture

Furthermore, you may be confusing "ideological thinking" with principles, Michael Kleen.

1. a rule of conduct, esp. of right conduct
2. such rules collectively
3. adherence to them; integrity; uprightness: a man of principle
~ Webster's 2010 New World College Dictionary

Suverans2's picture

" the majority of men, there is such a love of tried arrangements, and so great a dread of experiments, that they will probably not act upon this right [to ignore the state] until long after it is safe to do so." ~ Herbert Spencer

Paul's picture

I'm a bit puzzled over the respect the 4th Amendment receives. Even if government thugs paid attention to it, it still amounts to one lowlife signing a paper authorizing other lowlifes to go through your private stuff (and even planting drugs and other prohibited crap on you if they please). It seems a bit much to be pining for it, now that it is gone.

We are at war, plain and simple. If you are the next victim on their list, you simply have two choices: resist or submit (OK, maybe evasion is also a possible choice). The world was ever so. Let's just deal with the world as it is, and leave these childish fantasies behind.

Oh, and one more thing: submitting does not help things get better.

Suverans2's picture

″Power [i.e. authority] rests on nothing other than people's consent to submit, and each person who refuses to submit to tyranny reduces it by one two-hundred-and-fifty-millionth, whereas each who compromises [with it] only increases it.″ ~ Vladimir Konstantinovich Bukovsky