“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.”
It is another sad day when it comes to our constitutional rights. The fourth amendment – which protects our rights against illegal searches and seizures – has essentially been nullified. Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained illegally should still be valid in court as long as it was obtained as a result of a police error or mistake.
The case arose as a result of police entering the Alabama home of Bennie Dean Herring when they thought they had a warrant, when they legally did not. The warrant in question had been recalled over 5 months earlier, yet the police proceeded to act on it. Chief Justice Roberts said the evidence could be used “when police mistakes are the result of negligence such as that described here, rather than systemic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements.”
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on this issue. Ironically, the court recognized that this case violated Bennie Herrings 4th Amendment rights, yet they upheld the drug and gun conviction.
Up until this ruling, evidence obtained illegally – regardless of it was done intentionally or by mistake – would be thrown out of court.
The fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine has been what courts have followed; essentially, evidence obtained through information that has been illegally gathered is not admissible in court. Essentially, this doctrine has also been thrown out as long as the illegal gathering of evidence was because of a “police mistake.”
The real problem here, aside from the blatant disregard for the Bill of Rights, is that there is no method of determining what was a police mistake and what appears to be a police mistake. This has long since been a problem, but now it’s bound to increase drastically. If an officer illegally enters my home, finds evidence of something illegal, but did not realize he didn’t have a warrant, that is one thing; but if an officer pretends he didn’t know he didn’t have a warrant yet the evidence is still admissible in court, that is another thing entirely.
Many people will not realize the importance of this decision. This decision by the court will have long-term consequences. By the time the average American realizes it, it will be too late. Our fourth amendment rights are essentially gone, unless we keep our trust in the honesty of individual police officers (which I’m not too keen to do).
This is yet another step towards a police state. A huge step. In my mind, this is much worse that the illegal Bush wiretapping without a warrant. Now they can not only wiretap without a warrant, they can search your home!