It’s rare that you’ll see me write something “alarming” about a Supreme Court ruling that has an impact on our Constitutional rights. But when I read about their latest ruling which now gives police permission to enter a home without a search warrant, it did set off a few of my red flags.
In a 6-3 ruling based off a 2009 Los Angeles Police Department case, the Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement can enter someone’s home as long as they have the consent of at least one person inside.
The particular case, and how it played out, isn’t exactly what troubles me.
As the Los Angeles Times reported:
“The case began when LAPD officers responded to reports of a street robbery near Venice Boulevard and Magnolia Avenue. They pursued a suspect to an apartment building, heard shouting inside a unit and knocked on the door. Roxanne Rojas opened the door, but her boyfriend, Walter Fernandez, told officers they could not enter without a warrant.”
At that time Fernandez was arrested in connection with the robbery. When the police returned later, without a warrant, Roxanne Rojas allowed them in. During that visit they found a shotgun and gang-related materials.
This ruling says that the co-owner of the dwelling must be “physically present” to object if one of the owners of the dwelling is giving their consent.
Does this open the door to the possibility of officers finding a way to arrest and remove a co-owner of a dwelling, for the purposes of removing their “objection” to a search if they have the consent of another person?
I think it could. It seems that all the officers would have to do is find any reason to take the person objecting to their search into custody, remove them from the premises, then come back to search the home.
What also worries me about this ruling is it opens the door for “their word versus mine.” What if at the time someone gives their consent, though without recorded evidence there might not be any proof – then later they claim they never gave their permission?
Or heck, what if police officers lie and say they got permission?
In both situations you’ll have little or no proof either way other than what the person who supposedly gave consent is saying and what the police officers say. Unless you have officers video record the person giving their consent, which opens the door for other potential abuse and unanswered hypotheticals.
While I understand that in certain circumstances obtaining a search warrant is tedious, especially when it’s obvious that something criminal is being hidden, I just can’t help but feel that this ruling opens the doors for many Americans to have their Fourth Amendment rights tossed out the window.
And while I usually lean toward the side of “if you have nothing to hide then why worry about allowing the cops to search your place,” that doesn’t matter when it relates to our Constitutional rights.
I’m sure this ruling will bring out a lot of the voices of those who strongly oppose the NSA’s tactics. And while similar, I don’t see the two as being equal. I feel there’s a drastic difference between the NSA’s surveillance programs and law enforcement actually coming into your home to search it.
But what do you think? Does this ruling infringe on our Fourth Amendment rights?
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