Free State or Police State
By Richard Schwartzman
June 17, 2011
The enemies of a free state — and a free people — are at it again. Not that they ever stopped, but a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, along with a new directive within the FBI and a city council ordinance in Iowa. make it perfectly clear that the Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures is a thing of the past.
The Supreme Court decision, issued in May based on a case from Kentucky, allows police officers to enter a residence without a warrant if they contend that they smelled marijuana or some other drug odor, knocked, identified themselves as police and then heard noises that sounded like evidence being destroyed.
Note the assumption that police really did smell drugs, as if police never lie.
Consider the case in Philadelphia during the 1990s when several officers from the same North Philly precinct were convicted of planting evidence on innocent people. This current ruling runs the risk of making the Philadelphia situation routine across the country.
The specifics in the Kentucky case are these: Police were following a suspect who allegedly sold crack cocaine to an informant. They followed him into an apartment building, but did not see which apartment he entered.
Smelling marijuana coming from one unit, the police knocked, identified themselves and then heard movement and a toilet flushing. So, the cops broke in and arrested the occupant who was not the suspect they were following. They did find some powdered cocaine so the man was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to 11 years in prison.
The appellate process took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Judge Samuel Alito Jr. said people don’t have to answer the door when police knock but if police hear movement and the toilet flush, officers may enter without the need for a warrant. In the 8-1 decision, Alito wrote that people who attempt to destroy evidence have only themselves to blame.
The lone dissent came from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg who said the court has now given police an easy way to ignore fundamental rights. The decision “arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases,” she wrote.