Less constitutional protection

The existence of a judge, an independent third party, is fundamental for balancing the interests of the authorities and the rights of the individual when searching a home for evidence. Unfortunately, this presence is going to be reduced thanks to the permissive decision handed down this week by the Supreme Court.

The ruling, in which the high court’s conservative majority prevailed, involved a Los Angeles Police Department case, where the suspect denied officers entry into his home on the grounds of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits a warrantless search. The police arrested the suspect and later returned to the same house, where his girlfriend consented to the search of the property, and the police found evidence against the suspect.

The justices said that the police acted properly, expanding police power, which until now only allowed entry into a house without a warrant only when it was determined that there was an emergency. In this case, the police deliberately decided not to follow the normal channels of seeking a warrant to search the detainee’s house.

The ruling says that the permission of another resident voids the first resident’s prior claim of constitutional protection. This conclusion encourages the authorities to maneuver around the requirement of involving a judge at this stage in the investigation.

Individual protections are thus reduced, as is the significance of prior Supreme Court decisions that strengthened them. Individual guarantees against potential abuse are now more fragile.

This alternative to sidestep a judge should be of concern to all Americans, especially minorities who have a history of being targets of police excess.

With its decision in Fernandez v. California, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority continued to erode individual protections by expanding the ways that the authorities can evade judicial scrutiny.