"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
-Oscar Wilde
Brilliant at Breakfast title banner "The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
"...you have a choice: be a fighting liberal or sit quietly. I know what I am, what are you?" -- Steve Gilliard, 1964 - 2007

"For straight up monster-stomping goodness, nothing makes smoke shoot out my ears like Brilliant@Breakfast" -- Tata

"...the best bleacher bum since Pete Axthelm" -- Randy K.

"I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum." -- "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (1954-2015), They Live
Friday, June 16, 2006

Where are the militia-types now?
Posted by Jill | 10:30 AM
Remember during the Clinton years, when the right-wing militia kooks were thundering about "jack-booted thugs" kicking their way into our houses in violation of the Fourth Amendment?

Where are those guys now, now that the Bush Supreme Court has decided it's perfectly OK for law enforcement to barge into your house without knocking?

The Supreme Court yesterday substantially diminished Americans' right to privacy in their own homes. The rule that police officers must "knock and announce" themselves before entering a private home is a venerable one, and a well-established part of Fourth Amendment law. But President Bush's two recent Supreme Court appointments have now provided the votes for a 5-4 decision eviscerating this rule.

This decision should offend anyone, liberal or conservative, who worries about the privacy rights of ordinary Americans.

The case arose out of the search of Booker T. Hudson's home in Detroit in 1998. The police announced themselves but did not knock, and after waiting a few seconds, entered his home and seized drugs and a gun. There is no dispute that the search violated the knock-and-announce rule.

The question in the case was what to do about it. Mr. Hudson wanted the evidence excluded at his trial. That is precisely what should have happened. Since 1914, the Supreme Court has held that, except in rare circumstances, evidence seized in violation of the Constitution cannot be used. The exclusionary rule has sometimes been criticized for allowing criminals to go free just because of police error. But as the court itself recognized in that 1914 case, if this type of evidence were admissible, the Fourth Amendment "might as well be stricken."

The court ruled yesterday that the evidence could be used against Mr. Hudson. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, argued that even if police officers did not have to fear losing a case if they disobeyed the knock-and-announce rule, the subjects of improper searches could still bring civil lawsuits to challenge them. But as the dissenters rightly pointed out, there is little chance that such suits would keep the police in line. Justice Scalia was also far too dismissive of the important privacy rights at stake, which he essentially reduced to "the right not to be intruded upon in one's nightclothes." Justice Stephen Breyer noted in dissent that even a century ago the court recognized that when the police barge into a house unannounced, it is an assault on "the sanctity of a man's home and the privacies of life."

For those tempted to parrot the talking point that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about, ask Philip Petronella. Or ask Roy and Belinda Baker. Or ask Sharon and William McCulley. Or ask Rodolfo Celis. Or Loraine Adams, whose 61-year-old husband was shot to death by police during a drug raid on the wrong house. Or Lloyd Miner. Or any of the many other people who have found themselves staring down the barrel of a policeman's gun in a wrong-house search, whether our privacy rights should be so summarily dismissed.
Bookmark and Share