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John Wayne's Holster: No More "Get-Out-of-Jail-Free" Cards
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Saturday, June 17, 2006

No More "Get-Out-of-Jail-Free" Cards

"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" - Constitution of the United States, Fourth Amendment

Late last week, the SCOTUS ruled that the government does not have to forfeit evidence gathered during improperly conducted “no knock” searches.

The majority opinion issued by Justice Scalia centered on defendants who are set free due to the fact that otherwise valid evidence is excluded from court. Scalia concluded that the social cost of maintaining the exclusionary rule is simply too high. He pointed out that in many cases, it resulted in the suppression of evidence in othewise solid cases, resulting in “setting the guilty free and the dangerous at large” – essentially giving them a “get-out-of-jail-free card”.

Scalia explained that the so-called “knock-and-announce” rules were instituted for three main reasons: (1) to “[protect] human life and limb, because an unannounced entry may provoke violence in supposed self-defense by the surprised resident, (2) to give individuals “ the opportunity to comply with the law and to avoid the destruction of property occasioned by a forcible entry” and (3) to protect “those elements of privacy and dignity that can be destroyed by a sudden entrance.

Scalia continued, "What the knock-and-announce rule has never one's interest in preventing the government from seeing or taking evidence described in a warrant. Since the interests that were violated…have nothing to do with the seizure of the evidence, the exclusionary rule is inapplicable,"

Civil liberties groups and other liberal commentators were quick to point the finger at the Bush White House and the recently confirmed SCOTUS justices. They tossed around their incendiary rhetoric - laden with terms such as facism and police state. They also expressed fears that the ruling could encourage police with search warrants to conduct more aggressive raids.

Quite frankly, I do not see what the liberals are all up in arms about. Under the ruling, police still need to have a search warrant to enter a home or other property, and there is nothing to prevent a person from suing the police if they believe that their civil rights were violated. In addition, it does not prevent the exclusion of evidence obtained in illegal warrantless searches.

What the ruling does do is give police more effective measures for prosecuting criminals. The previous “knock-and-annouce” rules gave criminals time to destroy evidence or prepare weapons for defense. Now they will not have the time to do that. The ruling also prevents sleazy defense attorneys from getting their otherwise guilty clients from getting off scott-free due to legal technicalities.

I suppose that the fear of “more aggressive police raids” may hold some validity, but that may not be as far reaching as liberals are leading us to believe. I beleive police will tread cautiously here. For starters, they do put themselves under additional risks during "no-knock" entries, and therefore will proceed cautiously. In addition, if too many mistakes or unjustifed searches are made, cases like this one may very well end up back in SCOTUS, and law enforcement would lose a valuable prosecution tool.


At 11:42 AM, Anonymous Roy said...

I have been thinking this one through since I heard the ruling. I am somewhat torn. I do believe that something needed to be done to stop the sleazy lawyers who routinely get evidence thrown out. A no knock rule does allow for police to stop the criminal prior to destroying drugs or evidence.

I guess my only fear is that it seems that the trend is going against private property. First, there was immenent domain, now no knock, as well I believe that most cities have lawn standards. For example, people must keep the outside of their homes to certain city standards. Now I don't want to live next to a bum, but I don't know that I think there should be laws forcing them to comply. But I digress, I agree with you that if the cops abuse this power then it will wind up before the SCOTUS again and this decision could be reversed.

At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Joe Verica said...

I must admit that I too am a little disturbed about the trend against private property. I saw an article on that matter on Huffington Post or somewhere.

As far as No-Knock goes, I think the potential danger here is that the ruling party could use this ruling as a tool to target leaders of politically motivated action groups like EarthFirst! or or whoever. It is not hard to come up with some charge of drug possession or tax evasion or whatever – be they trumped up or legit – to try and take down the leaders of these groups. Similarly, there is also the fear of the overzealous cop knowingly following the lead of unreliable info and engaging on a witch-hunt for a chance of making that “big bust” in an attempt to get accommodations and/or promotions.

Reminds me of the Gil Scott-Heron poem No-Knock, which was written in protest of the no-knock legistlation supported by attorney general John Mitchell in the early 70's.

From the album Free Will

You explained it to me, but I must admit,
But just for the record you are talking shit.
Long rap about no-knock being legislated
For the people you always hated.
In this hell-hole you weave, called home.

No-knock the man will say
To keep that man from beating his wife
No-knock the man will say
To protect people from themselves.

No-knocking, head rocking, intershocking ,
Shooting, cussing, killing & crying,
Lying and being white.


No-knock on my brother Fred Hampton,
Bullet holes all over the place
No-knock on my brother Michael Harris,
Jammed a shot gun against his skull

For My protection?
Who is going to protect me
The likes of you? The nerve of you!


If you are wise no-knocker,
You’ll tell your no-knockering lackeys

No-knock on my brother’s head,
No-knock on my sisters’s head,
No-knock on my brother’s head,
No-knock on my sisters’s head,

And double-lock your door,
Cause soon,
Someone will be no-knocking…
For you!


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