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   Has the Fourth Amendment Been Routed?

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6/22/2006 7:00 pm

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Entered 6/22/2006, Updated 6/22/2006

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Everyone knows a man’s home is his castle – Agreed? The basic right of privacy in one’s place of residence has been a fundamental founding principle in any Democratic system, going back to England in the 1600s. William Pitt expressed this concept well in the English Parliament in 1763, “The poorest man may, in his cottage, bid defiance to all the forces of the crown. It may be frail; its roof may shake; the wind may blow through; the storm may enter; but the King of England may not enter; all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.” This basic privacy concept was restated last year in an editorial by the ultraconservative Washington Times, “In this country, the FBI may not enter our tenements, ruined or otherwise, unless its agents adhere to the requirements of the Fourth Amendment. That’s what the Constitution says.” But the newly constituted U.S. Supreme Court feels otherwise. In a decision handed down last week, the Supremes gave the go ahead for a completely different standard that no longer require police officers to get a search warrant and knock on one’s door announcing they are there to search the house. Under the new rules, and despite what would seem to be a solid constitutional protection otherwise, there is now apparently no policy protecting the homeowner and the sanctity of his home from immediate entry by the police. No announcement, no warrant, no knocking. Use whatever means necessary to kick down the door and barge on in. This basic right to be protected from invasion in your home was dismissed as a trivial concern by Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion for the court. He found privacy rights passé’ by writing that most concerned were merely arguing for “the right not to be intruded upon in one’s nightclothes.”


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