Viewpoint

Liberty under siege

From an editorial Tuesday in the New York Times:

The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government – in theory, anyway.

In practice, though, court decisions over several decades have created so many exceptions to this constitutional principle as to render it effectively meaningless in many real-world situations.

On Monday, the Supreme Court further weakened the Fourth Amendment by making it even easier for law enforcement to evade its requirement that stops be based on reasonable suspicion. The justices ruled 5-3 that a police officer’s illegal stop of a man on the street did not prevent evidence obtained from a search connected to that stop to be used against him.

In a powerful dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote: “This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants – even if you are doing nothing wrong.”

The central, disturbing message of Monday’s ruling, she added, is that “your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights,” and in that way, “unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives.”

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