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. The great 4th Amendment to the American Constitution. Its job is to protect our rights as citizens to not have our property searched or seized without just and legal cause. This amendment is all too often violated. However, in recent Supreme Court cases, it has been more closely evaluated. Justice Scalia of the Supreme Court (as well as 3 “liberal” justices, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, Kagan) scrutinize the cases that are presented to the Court to determine if they are even valid issues to be before the Justices. In the case of Navarette v California, Scalia and the 3 other justices identified above wrote dissenting opinions, illustrating just how the defendant’s 4th amendment rights were violated. The case seems so weak on reasonable articulable suspicion to stop a vehicle that it is really mind boggling how the case made it to the highest Court, much less resulted in this opinion. The majority, Justices Breyer, Kennedy, Roberts, Alito and Thomas have indicated that the anonymous caller was “reliable” because they used 911 to call the near miss traffic incident into the police. This of course is a colossal bucket of crap! This caller is no more reliable then a jilted spouse who makes a bogus call to 911 of a trumped up assault charge. It has always been law that an anonymous caller’s information must be checked by the police and could not be acted upon without further observation. The fact is, there is no way to quantify reliability under these circumstances, without knowing the tipster and the facts. This is why we have cross-examination in the courtroom, to determine reliability. For the Justices to bend over backwards this far in order to give the police warrantless stop authority is the largest violation of the 4th Amendment that this author has seen in over 20 years of criminal practice. This decision is a true disgrace to the people and I look forward to the day it is over turned.
Navarette was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving after an anonymous woman called 911 and claimed to have been run off the road by his vehicle. Rather than waiting to see if he was actually doing anything suspicious, officers immediately pulled him over, discovered weed in the back of his truck, and threw him in jail – the problem is that they didn’t have any probable cause other than the anonymous tip from the woman, which 4 of the justices agreed shouldn’t be enough to search his vehicle, especially since the officers didn’t notice anything suspicious about his driving. This is, and has been, bedrock black letter law for 200 years, or at least since we have had cars. The Justices in this opinion are not indicating that an anonymous tip from a bystander, may in some cases be enough to pull a car over. This is a very dangerous and slippery slope precedent to set for law enforcement as it seriously nullifies citizens 4th Amendment rights.
The other issue that has arisen involving search and seizure deals with private information on a person’s cell phone. Do officers have the right to go through a person’s phone while they are in custody and without actually getting a warrant? The amount of personal information on a cell phone is staggering – between your apps, text messages, notes, and passwords, officers can find out just about anything about your life. It’s a scary prospect. With the advent of social media and the amount of “sharing” people do nowadays, the police could have almost unlimited access to your life and the lives of people you know through your smartphone, especially in the case of a bogus stop like the one identified above. The amendment was originally drafted to protect the people from they tyranny and warrantless searches that they suffered from the King of England.
The hope is that Justice Scalia and the balance of the “liberal” court will keep a close eye on 4th Amendment rights and overturn this and similar bad law cases as soon as possible before the citenzry of this country of no protections left. If you’ve been accused of a crime and believe that you were a victim of an unreasonable search and seizure, you can schedule your free consultation with Robinson & Associates, by calling (443)-524-7395 or clicking today.