The text of the 4th Amendment reads:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
In 1968, the Supreme Court ruled that “…law enforcement may perform a search when they have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, even if it falls short of probable cause necessary for an arrest.” This reasonable suspicion standard created by the court has provided police the necessary “legal” authority to perform searches in violation of 4th Amendment language. In fact, thanks to the Court, the overwhelming majority of searches conducted in the U.S. today are warrantless searches. Obtaining a warrant has become an annoyance, a bothersome anachronism that is said to interfere with the timely administration of justice.
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In Navarette, an anonymous tipster telephoned police, informing them that the driver of a silver Ford truck, license number 8D94925, had just run him off of the road. Upon locating the truck, “…[police] officers verified the non-criminal details of the tip before pulling over the truck (i.e. color, plate number, etc.), [but] they did not witness any illegal behavior or reckless driving before stopping the truck.” Officers searched the truck and found 4 large bags of marijuana. The driver was charged with “…transportation of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale.”
The defendant’s attorney asked that the evidence of the marijuana be suppressed, stating that “…the original stop was an illegal stop because the anonymous tip was insufficient to provide reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.” Both the trial court and a California Appeals Court denied the motion to suppress, each stating that police were not required to verify the claim that the truck was being driven recklessly. Officers were only required to verify the “non-criminal” details–in this case, the type and color of the vehicle and its license number–prior to stopping the truck and conducting a search.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in order to decide “…whether the Fourth Amendment requires a police officer, who receives an anonymous tip about a drunken or reckless driver, to corroborate the dangerous driving before stopping a vehicle.”
In a 2000 case, the Supreme Court ruled that an anonymous tip did not allow police the luxury of ignoring either 4th Amendment rights or even the necessity of meeting the far less stringent legal standard of reasonable suspicion.
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But in Navarette, the State of California will argue before the Court that even the weak standard of reasonable suspicion may be ignored IF the alleged criminal activity is serious enough. In other words, “the more serious the crime, the less suspicion is needed.” Or more properly, the more serious the ALLEGED crime, the less suspicion is needed to stop and search the alleged suspect. Reckless driving, for example, may indicate drunk driving, which represents such a potential danger to the public that the rights of an alleged suspect may be completely ignored. Therefore, an anonymous tip may be acted upon just as though the tipster were known to be reliable and correct, and the driver known to be guilty!
If the Court permits law enforcement to ignore constitutional rights based upon an anonymous tip and permits police to increase the aggressive nature of their response according to nothing more substantial than the seriousness of the alleged crime, how long will it be until Democrat operatives make anonymous claims about alleged criminal activity on the part of Republican candidates? How often will former girlfriends or wives lodge anonymous charges against former boyfriends or husbands? The possibilities for the destruction of reputations are endless. And the necessity of probable cause, or proof, will for practical purposes no longer exist.
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