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My brother e-mailed me:

Remember 1-14-2009.

That's the day we officially became a Banana Republic.

By a 5-4 ruling the Supreme Court voted today to effectively gut the 4th Amendment as a meaningful limitation on police power.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today (PDF file) that evidence gathered illegally by police as the result of defective search warrants is admissible in court.

Officers in Coffee County arrested petitioner Herring based on a warrant listed in neighboring Dale County’s database. A search incident to that arrest yielded drugs and a gun. It was then revealed that the warrant had been recalled months earlier, though this information had never been entered into the database . . .

Held: When police mistakes leading to an unlawful search are the result of isolated negligence attenuated from the search, rather than systemic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements,the exclusionary rule does not apply.

Translation: If the cops screw up, but get lucky and find something anyway, tough ta-tas for you, Mr. Private Citizen.

Better yet, If the cops decide they want to go after you, but can't get a legitimate warrant, they can fabricate one and later claim it was a "negligent" but innocent mistake. The burden of proof will then be on YOU, Mr. Private Citizen, to prove "systemic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements," and we know how much time, money and good ol' American can-do spirit you have to do that, right?

Banana republic, indeed.

Guess who the four dissenters were?

UPDATE (11:31 p.m. PST): It took me quite a while to get back to the computer - sorry - and now this little semi-rant went and made the Rec List. I'm afraid I won't be able to respond to many of the comments, but I will go through them. Thanks for reading!

UPDATE 2 (10:05 a.m. 1-15-09): What a wonderful, well-informed, erudite discussion the comments to this diary have produced!  I dashed this diary off as a mini-rant late yesterday, just before I had to run out the door, and by the time I got back there were nearly 500 comments.  This clearly is one of those diaries that makes the Rec List not because of the contents of the diary itself, but because of the substantive and thought-provoking nature of the discussion that follows.

What I have learned in reading through at least a portion of the comments is that in fact the Fourth Amendment was eviscerated long before yesterday’s decision; it seems the Leon decision of 1984 kicked in the door, as it were, to allow in a "good-faith" exception to the exclusionary rule.  Inasmuch as Justice Ginsburg (who wrote yesterday’s dissenting opinion) was not seated on the Court at the time of that ruling, yesterday's case was a prime opportunity for her to weigh in, as it was for the three other dissenters.

I stand by my original assessment: that the five justices in the majority, in ruling as they did yesterday, further cemented the ability, and increased the likelihood, of governmental agencies to abuse the "good-faith" exception to the exclusionary rule.  Negligence is negligence, and whether a citizen's fundamental rights are violated by an authority figure wielding a gun or one wielding a keyboard, the net result is the same: an unconstitutional deprivation of liberty.

I was frankly shocked by the number of commenters who expressed the logic, "if you're innocent, you don't have anything to worry about."  I thought - wrongly, evidently - that the last eight years of the BushCheney regime's conduct of the "war on terror" had sufficiently given the lie to that logical fallacy.  Sadly, even among readers of this site, I can see that my sanguine belief was wrong

Again, thanks so much for reading - and for commenting!

Originally posted to Important if True on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 04:28 PM PST.

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