It’s as bad as Kelo, only not as widespread – yet.
Indiana’s Supreme Court just ruled that police can basically enter Hoosier homes without a warrant, without justifiable cause, without – apparently – any regard whatsoever for the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. You know, that’s the one where it says Americans have the right to be secure in homes and in their persons. In Indiana, however, that right was just watered down a bit, as three of five justices found police can, in fact, push into a person’s home if the situation warrants – and by warrants, it’s meant that if police feel it to be true. (Not to be confused with warrants, as in the actual issuance of a legal document.)
It’s as horrendous a ruling as Kelo v. the City of New London, which watered the constitutional protections for private property owners and opened the doors for government to take land based on the likes of economic development, rather than public use.
The Indiana case began as an altercation between husband and wife. When police arrived on the scene, the couple went inside and shut the door on the officer who tried to follow. When that didn’t work – when the officer forced his way inside the home – the husband shoved him against a wall. Other officers responded with a stun gun, and the man was arrested.
What followed is a civil rights nightmare, as captured in these words, from Justice Steven David who wrote for the majority: “A right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest.”
So Hoosiers have to cede their Fourth Amendment rights because police entering their homes illegally might cause an upset that leads to physical altercation? Most people might consider that just the proper time to exert physical force – when an intruder enters.
As one dissenting judge suggested, the ruling is too broad in that it essentially tells Hoosiers that “government agents may now enter their homes illegally – that is, without the necessity of a warrant, consent or exigent circumstances.”
Meanwhile, just today, U.S. Supreme Court justices ruled 8-1 that police can enter a home without a warrant if they smell what they believe is marijuana, knock and identify themselves, and then hear evidence – or at least what they think is evidence – being destroyed. In other words, one unfortunately timed flush, and police could be surrounding the bathroom.
Justice Ruth Ginsburg dissented, saying that the ruling gives police the power to bypass an important provision of civil rights – that of a neutral judge deciding whether or not law enforcement has enough information and evidence to justifiably enter an individual’s home.
“Police officers may now knock, listen, then break the door down, never mind that they had ample time to obtain a warrant,” Ginsburg wrote.
The difference between the two cases is that the SCOTUS one referred specifically to marijuana cases and the ruling clearly spoke of police powers as they pertain to drug arrests, while the Indiana one was much broader, open-ended. But it’s curious that even in the more narrowly defined SCOTUS case, Ginsburg saw cause for alarm for just the type of infringement addressed in the Indiana case.
In a New York Times article, Ginsburg asked, “How secure do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for evidence of unlawful activity?”
Let’s hope the Indiana case isn’t a precursor of what’s to come at the national level.
Cheryl K. Chumley is online editor of Tea Party Review Magazine.