The headline of this Police Magazine article all but says this when it reads “How to Tell When You Need a Search Warrant.”
How about every single time you’re doing a search of something, no exceptions?
The deck makes it even more clear: “While it’s always best to have a piece of paper to back you up in court, sometimes shortcuts are OK.”
I must have missed that part of the Fourth Amendment.
Let’s see what it says:
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.
Huh. For some reason I cannot find the part that says “but if you really don’t want to you don’t have to this is just a polite suggestion and anyone else who says differently is probably a criminal who has something to hide.”
The rest of the article attempts to advise cops on how to grab evidence without falling into the definition of a “search.”
To quote the King of Castle Swamp from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it’s quite simple: If you’re taking something that does not belong to you, or you are on private property without the consent of the owner, it’s a search. When you pull someone over and confiscate their phone or go through their possessions, it’s a search, irrespective of what the Supreme Court decides.
Without a search warrant based on probable cause, neither police officers nor any law enforcement officer have the authority or right to enter a person’s home or take their property from them. If they do, they are trespassing or it’s theft. To say otherwise is to imply that the rules do not apply to them or they are bestowed with special privileges due to the mere fact of having a badge and a gun.
They may not see any issue with giving a man who already has guns, body armor, tactical gear, automatic weapons, armored cars, sniper rifles, and the full backing of the State with the additional exemption from the rules they are supposed to enforce, but everyone else does.
If an officer shows up to a person’s house, unannounced and without a warrant, and simply breaks down the door, what exactly is the resident supposed to think? I know all suspects are guilty until proven innocent – or is it supposed to be the other way around? – but assume they are innocent and so they naturally presume a burglar is trying to get in and they shoot the cop. How is it rational to blame them? Or, worse, the cop shoots them and then issues a press release making it seem the person must have had something to hide.
If you don’t think this happens, consider this little anecdote from an article by Business Insider.
Householders, on hearing the door being smashed down, sometimes reach for their own guns. In 2006 Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year-old woman in Atlanta, mistook the police for robbers and fired a shot from an old pistol. Police shot her five times, killing her. After the shooting they planted marijuana in her home. It later emerged that they had falsified the information used to obtain their no-knock warrant.
I know the Police Magazine article isn’t advocating no-knock raids like this, but the two go hand in hand. If they are trying to find a way around the Fourth Amendment, you can bet they will do the same when it comes to whether or not they must announce themselves as officers before entering a home – something they don’t do already and which causes either unnecessary deaths or trauma when they hit the wrong residence.
A fundamental concept of freedom is the right to use force to defend yourself and your property against aggressors. If you do not have that right by nature, you are not free and you do not own your property.
Fortunately, some people are slowly beginning to understand the Catch-22 logic employed to justify this type of behavior. Recently a grand jury refused to indict and prosecute a Texas man who shot a deputy trying to enter his home unannounced and without a warrant.
It’s pretty simple. Law enforcement officers are not above the law just because they are enforcing it. They have to abide by it as well. Articles like this one trying to help officers skirt the Bill of Rights sends a very palpable message to citizens that the people entrusted with their rights can’t be trusted.
This is one of the reasons I am a libertarian anarchists and not a constitutionalist, which is what I was for a short period. The Constitution was written to place limitations on government, and the Bill of Rights to have specific protections for certain liberties.
The fatal flaw with a written constitution, however, is that it can simply be ignored whenever those in power wish to do so, and people have been conditioned to not resist when this happens. Our Constitution has not been properly followed almost since it’s inception – see the Alien and Sedition Act. The Constitution isn’t ignored so much as it is forgotten unless it gives the federal government the power to do something, such as tax.
It ultimately comes back to consent. If people do not get to choose their own security or determine the authority someone has over them, then abuses are inevitable.