At risk: the Fourth Amendment guarantee to all American citizens of the right to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
On Monday, in Kentucky v. King, the high court upheld the conviction of a man arrested after cops — who were tailing a suspected drug dealer into an apartment building — smelled marijuana smoke and banged on his door. When they heard noises coming from the apartment “consistent with the destruction of evidence,” they broke in and found drugs.
But they had the wrong guy.
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But Justice Sam Alito, writing for the 8-1 majority, said, in effect, So what?
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What planet is Alito living on? The whole point of the Bill of Rights is to restrict authority.
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But Alito’s interpretation is an open invitation to abuse — as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg emphatically warned in her dissent:
“The court today arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases. In lieu of presenting their evidence to a neutral magistrate, police officers may now knock, listen, then break the door down — never mind that they had ample time to obtain a warrant. I dissent from the court’s reduction of the Fourth Amendment’s force.”