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Supreme Court Positioned To Repeal 4th Amendment

January 24, 2014

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Navarette v California, a case in which a wrong  decision will effectively repeal the 4th Amendment rights of the American people.

The text of the 4th Amendment reads:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,  and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,  and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or  affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the  persons or things to be seized. 

In 1968, the Supreme Court ruled that “…law enforcement may perform a search  when they have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, even if it falls  short of probable cause necessary for an arrest.” This reasonable suspicion  standard created by the court has provided police the necessary “legal”  authority to perform searches in violation of 4th Amendment language. In fact,  thanks to the Court, the overwhelming majority of searches conducted in the U.S.  today are warrantless searches. Obtaining a warrant has become an annoyance, a  bothersome anachronism that is said to interfere with the timely administration  of justice.

In Navarette, an anonymous tipster telephoned police, informing them  that the driver of a silver Ford truck, license number 8D94925, had just run him  off of the road. Upon locating the truck, “…[police] officers verified the  non-criminal details of the tip before pulling over the truck (i.e. color, plate  number, etc.), [but] they did not witness any illegal behavior or reckless  driving before stopping the truck.” Officers searched the truck and found 4  large bags of marijuana. The driver was charged with “…transportation of marijuana and  possession of marijuana for sale.”

The defendant’s attorney asked that the evidence of the marijuana be  suppressed, stating that “…the original stop was an illegal stop because the  anonymous tip was insufficient to provide reasonable suspicion of criminal  activity.” Both the trial court and a California Appeals Court denied the motion  to suppress, each stating that police were not required to verify the claim that  the truck was being driven recklessly. Officers were only required to verify the  “non-criminal” details–in this case, the type and color of the vehicle and its  license number–prior to stopping the truck and conducting a search.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in order to  decide “…whether the Fourth Amendment requires a police officer, who  receives an anonymous tip about a drunken or reckless driver, to corroborate the  dangerous driving before stopping a vehicle.”

In a 2000 case, the Supreme Court ruled that  an anonymous tip did not allow police the luxury of ignoring  either 4th Amendment rights or even the necessity of meeting the far less  stringent legal standard of reasonable suspicion.

But in Navarette, the State of California will argue before the  Court that even the weak standard of reasonable suspicion may be ignored IF the  alleged criminal activity is serious enough. In other words, “the more  serious the crime, the less suspicion is needed.” Or more properly,  the more serious the ALLEGED crime, the less suspicion is needed to stop and  search the alleged suspect. Reckless driving, for example, may indicate drunk  driving, which represents such a potential danger to the public that the rights  of an alleged suspect may be completely ignored. Therefore, an anonymous tip may  be acted upon just as though the tipster were known to be reliable and correct,  and the driver known to be guilty!

If the Court permits law enforcement to ignore constitutional rights based  upon an anonymous tip and permits police to increase the aggressive nature of  their response according to nothing more substantial than the seriousness of the  alleged crime, how long will it be until Democrat operatives make anonymous  claims about alleged criminal activity on the part of Republican candidates? How  often will former girlfriends or wives lodge anonymous charges against former  boyfriends or husbands? The possibilities for the destruction of reputations are  endless. And the necessity of probable cause, or proof, will for practical  purposes no longer exist.

CREDIT TO:  Doug Book / The Western Center For Journalism  

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