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4th Amendment is dwindling yet again

The Supreme Court of the United States has spoken in their decision in Navarette v. California; again they have significantly limited the reach and protection of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution that protects all good citizens (and no so good), in this country. Up until this recent recent decision by the hight Court, motorists were protected from unreasonable searches and seizures by over zealous police and law enforcement. That is, the police needed more then a hunch to stop a car, they had to have, at a minimum, reasonable articulable suspicion; that typically translated into the cop actually witnessing an act of wrong doing. Thus, if an citizen eyewitness to a driving infraction saw something specious, said witness could call it in to the police but the cops would still have to corroborate the tip by witnessing some bad driving for themselves prior to pulling the suspect over. This layer of additional surveillance protected the public from unreasonable police conduct and from an X-spouse or jilted girlfriend causing a legal problem to get back a the target of their prior affection.

Unfortunately, this has now changed as a result of the decision in Navarette. Now, when a 911 tipster calls in a possible DUI driver and provides the police ample information to corroborate the incident, ie. where the driver is, time of day, what they say, etc., the police are not free to utilize this information as the basis for a legal stop- without anything more! Now, thanks to this opinion, the police no longer have to follow the vehicle and observe an infraction themselves. In this case, the cop actually did follow the suspect for 5 minutes and was unable to see any further traffic infractions and therefore should not have been permitted to effectuate the stop. This officer however, made the stop and the driver was found subsequently guilty based upon the tipster alone. The stop in this case made it all the way to the Supreme Court and was up held with Justice Thomas writing the opinion for the Court supported by Roberts and Kennedy.

As far as the narrow purview of DUI detection is concerned, such an opinion may find support in the general public, but it is wise to bear in mind with conservative opinions like this that we are all seriously effected when the 4th Amendment is continuously eroded by the Court. Now anybody can make a 911 call and with a few scant details the police are actually free to stop a car and interrogate the driver with no first hand knowledge. Thus, if a mother turns around to scald a unruly child and momentarily leaves her lane of travel, and that is called into the police, without more, the police are free to stop that car and exercise their police powers. What a freaking disaster!

Justice Scalia, writing the dissent for the Court had the following to say:

Law enforcement agencies follow closely our judgments on matters such as this, and they will identify at once our new rule: So long as the caller identifies where the car is, anonymous claims of a single instance of possibly careless or reckless driving, called into 911, will support a traffic stop. This is not my concept, and I am sure would not be the Framers’, of a people secure from unreasonable searches and seizures. I would reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal of California.

This dissent recognizes what has long been the law of this land for over 200 years; what has been the bed rock of protecting the citizenry from the police machinery. The Court with a stroke of its pen has single handedly minimized if not nullified the law of the land and simultaneously exposed the motoring public to capricious and erratic law enforcement activity.