The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 21      May 30, 2011

Supreme Court strikes
blow to 4th Amendment
CHICAGO—The U.S. Supreme Court has given cops a green light to enter a private home without permission or a search warrant, if they think “evidence” is about to be destroyed. The ruling is a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which outlaws “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

The 8-1 court decision upheld the action of police in Lexington, Kentucky, who burst into the apartment of Hollis King without a search warrant. They said they were looking for a suspect who allegedly sold drugs to an informant and then ran into King’s apartment building. The police did not see where the suspect went, but pounded on King’s door after claiming to smell marijuana. The officers claimed they “heard” the occupants trying to get rid of evidence, announced they were coming in, and broke down the door.

King was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 11 years in prison. The suspect the police said they were after was not in his apartment.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority brief, said the cops had acted entirely within the law. It was King who was at fault for the unconstitutional break-in, the judge said. King could have chosen not to respond to the knocking or refused to let the officers enter without a warrant. “Occupants who choose not to stand on their constitutional rights but instead elect to attempt to destroy evidence have only themselves to blame,” Alito said.

In a related development, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled May 12 that residents have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes. In a 3-2 decision, the court said a police officer can enter a home for any reason or no reason at all.

In this case police were called to investigate after a husband and wife got into an argument outside their apartment. When the police arrived the couple had gone back into the apartment and told the police they were not needed. The cops pushed their way in anyway. The husband resisted so they used a stun gun on him and arrested him.

Justice Steven David said, “We believe … a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy.” Someone arrested during such an entry can always try to get out on bail later and can protest through the courts, he reasoned.

On May 10 the Indiana Supreme Court said that police serving a warrant may enter a home without knocking if they decide it is necessary. These recent rulings add to many other moves against workers rights that serve to curb political space workers have to organize and speak out.  
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