What 4th Amendment? Indiana Sheriff Says Random, Warrantless House To House Searches Are Okay
from the thanks-Indiana-supreme-court dept
We’ve been covering a large number of situations and legal rulings lately that appear to suggest that the 4th Amendment is pretty much null and void for much of the US. With the news of a bad Supreme Court ruling concerning the ability of police to invade a home without a warrant, so long as they create circumstances that make it seem urgent, we’re pointed to an even more ridiculous ruling in the Indiana Supreme Court that effectively legalizes the ability of law enforcement to enter any home without a warrant. Why? The court basically says that it’s “against public policy” to require a warrant:
“We believe however that a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.”
In other words, the gradual (and, at times, not so gradual) destruction of the 4th Amendment is used to destroy it even more.
It appears that law enforcement in Indiana is wasting no time in recognizing the power this gives them. Radley Balko points us to the news that one Indiana Sheriff, Don Hartman Sr., from Newton County, has now stated that it’s legal to conduct house-to-house warrantless searches (see update below). According to him, everyone should be fine with such an invasion of privacy, because it means they can catch criminals:
According to Newton County Sheriff, Don Hartman Sr., random house to house searches are now possible and could be helpful following the Barnes v. STATE of INDIANA Supreme Court ruling issued on May 12th, 2011. When asked three separate times due to the astounding callousness as it relates to trampling the inherent natural rights of Americans, he emphatically indicated that he would use random house to house checks, adding he felt people will welcome random searches if it means capturing a criminal.
It’s as if they don’t care that they’re making a total mockery of the 4th Amendment and its important history.
Update: The sheriff in question has put out a statement contradicting the original story:
On May 16, 2011, I was contacted by a reporter of an internet radio station. Her question concerned a recent Indiana Supreme Court decision, allowing police officers to make random warrantless searches. I advised her that I was not clear on that particular ruling; she then asked how the Sheriff?s Office conducted searches of residences. I informed her that searches were only conducted with a warrant, probable cause or when an officer is in hot pursuit. When questioned about the Supreme Court ruling, I advised her that as police officers, we enforce those laws set forth by our legislative branch. This reporter then asked about the violation of Constitutional Rights. This State Supreme Court ruling in my opinion cannot override our U.S. Constitutional Rights and I?m sure this state ruling will be revisited.
When I was asked about my thoughts on random searches and how people would react, I gave her the scenario of looking for a criminal or escapee. I advised her that if people were aware of this situation, they would gladly let you search a detached garage, outbuilding, etc., if it meant keeping them safe, but this would only be after securing permission.
This court ruling is just open for lawsuits if a police officer would attempt a random search without due cause. Somewhere in this conversation things were definitely taken out of context. I’m now quoted as saying the Sheriff’s Office will be conducting random house to house searches.
I want the citizens of Newton County to rest assured that no member of the Newton County Sheriff?s Office will enter the property of another person without first having a warrant or probable cause to do so. I strongly stand behind my oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, as well as that of the State of Indiana.
At this point it’s the reporter’s word against the sheriff’s. It does seem odd that the reporter does not directly quote the sheriff, but does state that he “emphatically” said he would use such house-to-house searches…